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The Huron and The Huntress 



The Huron and The Huntress 





oB?. ^CD3 HOLE, ^lASS. 




_ By Edouard A. Stackpole curator 

a T O 

^^ o/ TA^ Marine Historical Association, Inc. 


November 1935 Number 2Q 

PRICE $2.00 

Copyright IQSS 


Printed by 
Connecticut Printers Incorporated 



Acknowledgment ............. 4 

Foreword .............. 5 

The South Shetland Islands ........... 7 

The First Sealers Arrive ........... 10 

Second Sealing Season 1820-1821 14 

The Hero and Express Sail to the South Shetlands ....... 19 

The Schooner Huntress Meets the Ship Huron at the Falklands .... 21 

Landfalls at the South Shetlands .......... 25 

Captain Palmer's Exploratory Cruise in the Hero ....... 28 

Yankee Harbor Becomes the Sealers' Rendezvous ....... 33 

The Search for New Rookeries and the Fate of the Clothier ..... 35 

Captain Burdick's First Cruise — The New York Fleet ...... 37 

Exploring the South Shetlands .......... 39 

Captain Burdick Is Caught in a Gale ......... 42 

The American and British Sealers Clash ........ 44 

Captain Davis Makes an Historic Decision ........ 47 

"And South We Steered" 49 

First Landing on the Antarctic Continent ........ 51 

"I Think This Southern Land to Be a Continent" ....... 53 

Further Observations and the Return of the Ship ....... 55 

Captain Burdick Attends an Auction and Meets a Discoverer ..... 58 

The Russian Admiral Meets the Yankee Captain ....... 60 

Captain Burdick Recognizes Land Which He Also "Supposes to Be a Continent" . 63 

Sealing at Low Island, Then Return to Yankee Harbor ...... 66 

Stonington Sealers Leave for Home and Others Prepare to Leave .... 68 

Appendix A — Notes on Sources .......... 72 

Appendix B — 1. The Beginnings of American Sealing — Trade with China . 75 

2. Discovery of the South Shetlands ...... 76 

Appendix C — Registers and Crew Lists of the Sealing Vessels .... 78 

Appendix D — ^The Falkland Islands 81 

Appendix E — Captain Palmer's Sealing Voyages of 1820-21 and 1821-22 . . 82 

Appendix F ............. 85 


The publication of this little book on Antarctic discovery was made possible 
through the generous support and aid of Alexander O. Victor, Curator of 
Maps, Yale University Library and Director of the Cartography Laboratory at 
Yale. Not only did Mr. Vietor allow the use of the logbook of the ship Huron, 
of New Haven, recently discovered by him, but he read this manuscript and 
made many valuable suggestions for its completion. 



With the recent announcement that six expeditions are to be sent to the Ant- 
arctic during the coming year, including another American expedition led by 
Admiral Richard Byrd, a revival of interest in that great frozen land has natur- 
ally revealed itself in numerous articles in magazines and newspapers. It has 
also resulted in a reiteration of Antarctic claims by the several nations of the 
world vitally interested — especially the great powers of the United States, 
Russia and Great Britain. 

Serious academic squabbles have been going on for over two decades as to 
the priority of discovery of that section of Antarctica called by the United 
States the Palmer Peninsula and by the British the Trinity Peninsula. The 
Argentinian Republic and Chile also have advanced claims to this area, as have 
the Russians. 

The basis for the territorial claims of each nation are among the least-known 
phases of the "cold war." The controversial issues here have nothing whatever 
to do with the discovery of the Antarctic mainland, claimed by this country for 
Lieutenant Charles Wilkes and by Great Britain for Sir James Ross. Both these 
events occurred in 1840 and 1841 and at other portions of the continent. 

The claims in the area of the Antarctic Peninsula involve events which took 
place twenty years before either Wilkes or Ross reached their icy landfalls off 
the larger bulk of the main continent of Antarctica. They have to do with the 
explorations and discoveries made by the unsung heroes of a forgotten era in 
our American Maritime History — the sealers. 

It was early in the nineteenth century that the enterprising merchants of New 
England learned of the discovery of the South Shetland Islands — some four 
hundred miles south of Cape Horn — where great seal rookeries were located. 
The pelt of the fur seal brought high prices in the markets of Canton. When 
news of the discovery reached the seaports, there was a race to the newly-found 
islands. The sealers came from both Britain and America. They met in a remote 
part of the world to compete vigorously for their fur pelts. 

But the circumstances which created this breed of sailor — this mariner- 
explorer — must be briefly outlined to delineate his remarkable characteristics. 
It was during the last decade of the old eighteenth and the first years of the new 
nineteenth century that this new type of seaman made his appearance in New 
England. He soon developed into a seafaring combination, a whaleman-sealer 
who embarked on voyages which literally took him to the ends of the earth, 
boldly sailing into these uncharted seas in a never-ending pursuit of the whale, 
sea elephant and seal. 



The adventures of these mariners were extraordinary. Some had moderately 
successful voyages; others made fortunes; still others met only shipwreck or 
similar tragedy. But all of them had unusual and colorful experiences. These 
nomads of the sea from the very nature of their voyaging made notable con- 
tributions toward the geographical knowledge of the world In which they lived. 

With the growth of the trade with China, their valuable seal pelts replaced 
the vanishing sea otter skins. Seeking their prey, they went to the Falkland 
Islands, South Georgia and Patagonia; rounded Cape Horn to St. Marys, 
Mocha and the Galapagos Islands; sailed to remote Desolation (Kerguelen) 
Island; rediscovered the Crozets; then followed the high latitudes south of 
Tasmania and New Zealand to the seal Islands below these distant lands. Then 
came the discovery of the South Shetlands. 

It Is with the voyages of these mariners among the South Shetland Islands 
that we are herein chiefly concerned. On this fringe of Antarctic seas, they estab- 
lished camp and rendezvous, sailing through the Ice-filled channels and along 
the rocky shores of the desolate islands; here they lived incredible lives, plunder- 
ing the rookeries and exterminating the seal. And here they braved the unknown 
dangers of the icy, uncharted waters to the south, becoming the first among 
men to sight, recognize and land where rise the snowy mountains of the last 
great continent — Antarctica. 


The South Shetland Islands 

When in 1775 the renowned Captain James Cook, one of the world's great 
navigators, after circumnavigating the Antarctic continent without sighting it, 
wrote that, although such a continent must exist, "the risque one runs in explor- 
ing a coast, in these unknown and icy seas, is so very great that no man will ever 
venture further than I have done,"^ he was prophesying a fact which would be 
true for only slightly more than his own lifetime. 

Cook's discovery of the South Sandwich Islands in latitude 59°25' south and 
longitude 27°20' west for nearly half a century was the southernmost land seen 
by man. Neither the great Englishman (nor his colleague. Captain Furneaux) 
realized that barely 160 miles south and west of his "Southern Thule" was a 
mountainous, peninsula-like finger beckoning him — the Antarctic Peninsula — 
and, like a line of sentinels between, were the chain of islands now called the 
South Shetlands. It remained for another Englishman, Captain William Smith, 
to discover the South Shetlands on a bleak February day in 1819. Smith was 
the master of the brig Williams, a merchant vessel of Blyth, England, then 
engaged in the South American trade between the east and west coast ports. On 
a voyage from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso, he decided to set a course far south 
of the usual tracts around Cape Horn in an effort to escape the customary head 
winds. On February 19, 1819, he sighted rocky, snow-capped peaks where he 
expected to see nothing but the dangerous icebergs and, he subsequently wrote, 
"having satisfied ourselves of land hauled to the Westward and made sail on 
our voyage to Valparaiso."^ 

On arrival at that port Smith reported the discovery to Captain William H. 
Shirreff, R.N., on board H.M.S. Andromache. With the caution long inherent 
in the Royal Navy, Captain Shirreff was skeptical of the information. Three 
months later, on his return voyage. Smith tried to regain his southernmost 
latitude but was unable to gain his landfall due to field ice. 

After his arrival at Montevideo, Smith told friends of his discovery. He 
later wrote that several Americans at that port and at Buenos Aires learned 
of this and offered bribes for the information, "but your memorialist, . . . 
resisted all the offers from the said Americans, determined again to re-visit the 
new-discovered land."^ 

Somehow, as such secrets have a habit of doing, the word leaked out and the 
approximate position of the supposed land was revealed. It may have come 
from a sailor in a tavern, and subsequently passed on to some American 
merchant who in turn probably wrote home. This was in June, 1819 and Smith 



in the meantime collected cargo for a return voyage to Valparaiso. It was not 
until early October, 1819, that he again reached the islands and on October 17 
he landed and took formal possession in the name of King George III, naming 
them New South Britain.* 

Once more at Valparaiso, Smith learned that Captain Shirreff had gone into 
the country. Smith wrote an important dispatch to the naval officer and while 
awaiting a reply took a freight of British machinery aboard, consigned to 
Concan Bay in the name of a young engineer, John Miers. 

It was Miers, a well-read man, who persuaded Smith to rename the group 
the New South Shetlands.'* The enthusiastic engineer was planning to charter 
the brig for a cruise to the islands when Captain Shirreff, having thoroughly 
digested Smith's dispatch, decided to charter the Williams in the King's name 
as a surveying vessel. Edward Bransfield, the Andromache's sailing master, was 
placed in command of the brig, with Smith as pilot. Midshipmen Blake, Bone 
and Poyneter of the frigate were also assigned to the Williams as was Surgeon 
Adam Young of the H.M.S. Slaney. 

On December 19, 1819, the Williams sailed. Captain Shirreff's "Instruc- 
tions" leave no doubt as to his awareness of the possibility that this new land 
might be part of Cook's "Southern Thule." Bransfield was told to explore, 
chart and observe every detail.'' 

In the meantime, the news of the discovery was being sent to the United 
States as well as England. Miers himself wrote an excellent account, drawn 
firsthand from Smith's records and mailed it in January, 1820.'^ This eventually, 
with a small chart, appeared in a publication in Edinburgh several months later. 
In a letter written to Dr. Samuel L. Mitchell about this same time, a Mr. J. 
Robinson, an American then residing in Valparaiso, described the discovery of 
the islands, adding: "Perhaps new sources of wealth, happiness, power and 
revenue would be disclosed."^ This letter, however, came to New York via 
England and did not arrive until September, 1820. By that time a number of 
New England vessels had been dispatched by American merchants who had 
learned of the South Shetlands from other sources. Meanwhile, Captain Smith 
had taken the Williams to the islands south of Cape Horn, where he arrived 
on January 16, 1820.^ Bransfield immediately began his work of charting the 
chain of islands ranging for 300 miles in a generally south-southwest to north- 
northeast direction between 53° and 63° west longitude and 61° and 63° south 
latitude. These were eight large islands, two small, and an innumerable number 
of smaller islets. Tide-swept straits, twisting channels and iron-bound shores 
combined with ice, fog, snow, sleet and gales to make navigation extremely 

The mountainous South Shetlands, covered with snow most of the year, the 
highest peaks in the clouds, with desolate shore and no vegetation, were a grim 
landfall. But their great potential was from the sea — the accessible beaches 
being the breeding ground for thousands of seals. Smith described these rook- 
eries as being so closely occupied that the seals appeared to be "stowed in 



bulk," and the tame seal were defenseless with no apprehension of their fate. 

Here was booty, rich, limitless — a veritable harvest in gold coin. The first 
to reach these shores would reap fortunes. It is no wonder that the watchword 
of the sealer for decades had been secrecy itself; that they carefully guarded 
all information as to these new rookeries. A successful voyage meant a second 
profit with the purchase of a cargo of Chinese goods as the vessels sailed to 
Canton for the sale of the seal pelts to the eager hong merchants. But the hunt 
for the seal led to virtual extermination of the species. 

While the indiscriminate slaughter of the seals In the South Shetlands was 
a sad feature of an otherwise thrilling story of maritime adventure, it is not 
the whole story. Despite their brutal trade, which made them realists in its 
fullest sense, the captains, officers and men were not all reckless, cynical and 
dissolute. True, they lived a hard life of necessity, but their fragmentary records 
reveal them as resourceful mariners, fully aware of their danger but willing 
to risk their lives In their hazardous calling. 


The First Sealers Arrive 

While Edward Bransfield and Captain Smith were engaged in their task of 
charting the South Shetlands, two sealing vessels were already at the islands. 
This not only revealed that the guarded word about the discovery had leaked 
out but that it had been a secret for only a brief time. 

First to arrive was the Espirito Santo, of Buenos Aires. As there appears 
to be no documentary evidence to give the picture of her voyage it is probable 
that this vessel sailed to the South Shetlands as a result of information received 
from the crew of the Williams while in Montevideo or Buenos Aires. 

From reports left by Captain Edmund Fanning of Stonington, the American 
sealing brig Hersilia, of Stonington, while on a voyage to the Falkland Islands 
and other sealing locations, learned there from one of the Espirito Santo' s crew 
of the existence of the new South Shetland Islands and immediately sailed 
thence. ^'^ 

Unfortunately, neither the log of the TVilUams, the Espirito Santo nor the 
Hersilia can be found. Of the three, utilizing all reliable evidence available, 
only the voyage of the Williams can be traced with a degree of accuracy. Having 
arrived at the Shetlands in January 16, 1820, the Williams sailed along the 
northern shores of the several islands, tracing the land for miles east and west 
— finding everywhere the same high, mountainous land, barren and with rocky 
beaches. Harassed by gales, beset by fogs and always aware of the dangerous 
coast, the Williams evolved a pattern which was to be followed by all other 
craft in this forsaken corner of the world. One of the most significant discoveries 
was that of a gulf, nearly 150 miles in depth "out of which we had some diffi- 
culty in finding our way back," recorded Dr. Young. This is now justly called 
Bransfield Strait. ^^ 

It was while sailing in this gulf, Dr. Young wrote, that Bransfield and Smith 
saw land in latitude 64° to the south and called it Trinity Land. This is the basis 
for the British claim for the discovery of Antarctica, and the chart prepared by 
Bransfield in 1820 is offered in evidence. 

The activities of the Hersilia are little known, aside from a few scattered 
sources. What is factual is that the brig was built in Mystic, Conn., in 1819 and 
duly registered in the custom house at New London. Her builder was Chris- 
topher Leeds. She was owned by eight residents of the area, headed by William 
A. Fanning, son of Captain Edmund Fanning. Her master, Captain James P. 
Sheffield, also owned a share as did Ephraim Williams, another master mariner. 



The vessel was 68 feet long, 22 feet 8 inches in beam, depth of 10 feet 1 inch. 
Her registry tonnage was 130.^^ 

The Hersilia sailed late in July, 1819 under the command of the veteran 
sealing master. Captain James P. Sheffield, with a crew of 19 men. Her second 
mate was young Nathaniel B. Palmer, then in his 20th year. The supercargo 
was William A. Fanning, a principal owner. Just when she arrived in the South 
Shetlands is not definitely known, but from headquarters at Rugged Island she 
got a cargo of 9,000 seal skins in three weeks' time and could have obtained 
thrice that but did not have the salt to cure them. The Espirito Santo must 
have fared equally well. They were pioneers in a virgin territory. 

Returning home late in May, 1820, the Hersilia brought with her not only 
her cargo but the verification of any news which may have arrived in the United 
States before her arrival. In Captain Edmund Tanning's "Voyages and Dis- 
coveries in the South Seas," is an account of the Hersilia's voyage to the South 
Shetlands. Captain Fanning, writing as he did a full decade after this event, 
states that the vessel was dispatched purposely to discover any new land to 
the south of Cape Horn. This, of course, is hardly creditable in view of other 
evidence, notably in a contemporary statement contained in a letter which de- 
clares that Captain Sheffield heard a report of the new islands, went to look 
for them, and found them in December, 1819.^^ 

In a letter to Captain N. B. Palmer from J. N. Reynolds, written in 1834, 
it is stated: "Fanning has given a new version of your first visit to the [South] 
Shetland Islands. Have you seen the old Dutchman's [Gherritz] chart? I don't 
much believe in it." This letter was quoted by Balch in his article on the Ston- 
ington sealers in the American Geographical Society's Bulletin, Vol. XLI, 1909. 

The Fanning account states they reached the islands in February, 1820, and 
goes on to describe the Hersilia sailing south to latitude 63°; of sighting a 
round, mountainous island which they named Mount Pisgah Island; of finding 
a group they called the Fanning Islands, of coming to a harbor in one of 
these, named "Ragged Island," and of calling this Hersilia Cove.^'* The account 
continues with the sealers, from elevated positions, discovering more land to 
the eastward, but they were anxious to get home and report the rich rookeries 
and so did not make any survey. 

It would appear that the Argentinian sealer Espirito Santo, which arrived 
at the South Shetlands just before the Hersilia and Williams in this first 
1819—20 sealing season, may have been the same vessel as the San Juan Nepo- 
muceno, of Buenos Aires, under Captain Carlos Timblom. This vessel took 
14,000 skins in five weeks, returning to her home port on February 22, 1820, 
the sealskins being consigned to Adam Grey, an English merchant. This suggests 
that Grey may have been an associate of Captain William Smith. The news- 
paper account states that the seals were obtained in "the Patagonias," but the 
number of skins brought back would indicate the South Shetlands as the place 
where they were obtained so comparatively quickly.^'^ 



In the National General Files (Archiva General de la Nacion) of Buenos 
Aires, there are documents which refer to the brig Espirito Santo alias Mer- 
curio as escaping from that port illegally in 1806. The question is whether or 
not this mysterious vessel could have likewise as conveniently changed its 
name for its sealing voyage to the Shetlands a few years later. 

In the first of two important letters (dated August 25 and September 4, 
1820) James Byers, a well-known New York sealing merchant, writing to 
Brigadier-General Daniel Parker, stated that, upon the HersiUa's return home, 
Captain Sheffield (formerly in Byers' employ) communicated the first informa- 
tion he had received of the new islands. Byers claimed that Sheffield offered 
to sail again in one of his ships and that a partner of Byers, a Walter Nexsen, 
went to Stonington to interview Captain Sheffield. The latter supplied pertinent 
information directly from his log. 

This information Nexsen obtained revealed that the Hersilia went to 61° 10' 
south latitude (and not 63° as Fanning reported) and longitude 57° 15' west. 
Captain Sheffield coasted along the "great new Island or Continent" for fifty 
miles, saw no end southwest, returned to what Sheffield thought to be the south- 
west end, and came to anchor between a number of islands, a short distance from 
the mainland.^*' This is an accurate appraisal of a landfall off Livingston Island 
(which the sealers called Frezeland), of sailing southwest and of coming to 
Rugged Island and anchoring in Hersilia Cove. The report continued with the 
statement that Sheffield and his men took 9,000 seal pelts in fifteen days (but 
could take no more on account of running short of salt) and saw 300,000 seals. 
The land ran about northeast and southwest, was uninhabited and destitute of 
wood. All this nautical survey pretty much conforms with the facts as later 
proven, and the Hersilia explored the northern shores of the South Shetlands, 
where they found seals in abundance. 

This August 25, 1820, letter of Byers further stated that he had received 
additional information from other sources, notably from another Captain 
Edmund Fanning, late of the schooner Spartan (one of Byers' vessels which 
had been wrecked on the Patagonian coast), and all nearly agreed on the 
latitude and longitude. ^^ This Captain Fanning was a Nantucket man, a 
nephew and not the son of his famous namesake. 

The other Byers letter (September 4, 1820), bears out the fact that, when 
the Hersilia sailed in May, 1819, no one in Stonington then knew of the exist- 
ence of the South Shetlands. The brig was then sailing on the same kind of 
sealing voyage as her contemporaries, both in Britain and America, and to 
"guard against a bad voyage in not finding seal, Captain Sheffield had on board 
about half a cargo calculated for the Spanish market. "^^ 

But whether or not Captain Sheffield or William Fanning learned of the newly- 
discovered islands while in the Falklands or at Staten Land, off Cape Horn, 
the evidence is conclusive that somewhere in these waters they did find out in 
time to alter their course and make a highly profitable voyage. And with it they 



won the honor of being the first American sealers in the Antarctic South Shet- 

All of the information merely supplemented the actual report of Captain 
Sheffield. James Byers and his associates were shrewd merchants. They had 
been engaged in sealing many years and knew what the new rookeries meant — 
fortunes ready-made. Further than that, they had some good men and good 
ships available. Of the fleet they dispatched, as well as the vessels sent by 
merchants from Salem, Boston and Nantucket, more will be given in the pages 
which follow. 

It is of importance to point out that Byers was well aware of the dangers 
of fighting between the rival sealers. He wrote General Parker in Washington: 
"If the British Government send any armed vessels they will not, I think, like 
to approach the high latitudes till about December. We Yankees you know 
do not fear cold weather. There is not the least doubt in my mind that but the 
British will attempt to drive our vessels from the Islands. Not by open hostility 
but by blustering and threats. The vessels from this quarter all went out armed 
(for their own safety) against pirates and robbers of any other description. 
. . . any difficulty however of this nature would very much Injure the voyage and 
would be prevented by the presence of an American Ship of War. . . ."^® 

Byers was seeking U.S. Navy protection. The South American Revolution 
was then raging and both British and American frigates were on the west coast 
of South America. But neither Great Britain nor the United States sent a naval 
vessel into the South Shetland area. 

It was a familiar story to the sealers. For over a quarter century they had been 
accustomed to depend only on their own resources, and the subsequent events 
in the South Shetlands were merely the following of the same pattern. Byers 
armed one of his vessels with nine-pounders.^*^ His prophecy as to threats and 
blustering was all too true, as subsequent events were to prove. 


Second Sealing Season 

at South Shetlands 1820-18 21 

While the initial discovery of the South Shetlands, and the independent voyages 
of the first three vessels there, pose important questions which may never be 
answered, the incidents surrounding the vessels taking part in the second sealing 
season — 1820-1821 — are materially more clear and understandable. This is 
due to the fact that three of the logbooks of American sealers which sailed 
during this second season in the South Shetlands have been literally rescued 
from the same fate which has claimed so many similar records — loss through 
neglect or by fire. 

The three logs are those of the ship Huron of New Haven, Captain John 
Davis, found in 1952 by Alexander O. Victor, Curator of Maps at Yale, 
and now at the Sterling Library, Yale University; of the schooner Huntress, 
of Nantucket, Captain Christopher Burdick, in the possession of the writer; 
and that of the sloop Hero, Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer, of Stonington, the 
original or copy of which is now located in the Library of Congress. 

Because these three logs serve as narratives of the leading actors on the 
gloomy stage of the South Shetlands, they will be studied herein as the ship- 
masters played their respective roles — sometimes commanding individual 
cruises, sometimes as co-players together, or in other interrelated parts. 

Following the custom of the sealers, some of the vessels (which were to 
make up the second season, 1820—1821, of sealing in the South Shetlands) 
were dispatched first to the Cape Verde Islands for the salt used to cure and 
pack the sealskins, thence to the Falkland Islands to complete their fitting out. 
The ships and brigs usually had the frames and planking of smaller craft care- 
fully packed on board which were reassembled in the Falklands and then ac- 
companied the larger vessel to the sealing location selected. These tenders 
were called "shallops" and were usually schooner-rigged. The Stonington, New 
York and Boston sealing fleets, however, included schooners which sailed with 
them. Nantucket, New Haven, Salem and New Bedford craft usually carried 
the knocked-down shallops on board. But oddly enough, on this occasion, with 
the news of the South Shetlands arriving at a time when swift action was de- 
manded to catch the season, the first Nantucket vessels dispatched were 
schooners. The only New Haven craft (which sailed before the news of the 
new rookeries reached that port) probably had its shallop constructed at the 
Falklands with no idea of the subsequent change in the voyage. 


s: >. 

^ c 

o — 

^ E 

^ 2 


As might be expected, the first fleet of American sealers sailed from Ston- 
ington in May, 1820. These were the brig Frederick, commanded by Captain 
Benjamin Pendleton, and the brig's tender, the schooner Freegift, under Cap- 
tain Thomas Dunbar, a Westerly, R.I., man. According to the "Marine 
Columns" of contemporary newspapers the Frederick sailed first on May 18, 
1820, and the schooner followed two days later. Their rendezvous was to be 
the Falkland Islands.^^ 

Thomas Stevens of Deep River, Conn., who has made a special study of 
sealing out of Stonington, believes that the Hersilia arrived at Stonington on 
May 21, 1820, in time to pass on the valuable information that only she pos- 
sessed to Captain Dunbar before the Freegift sailed.^^ Subsequently, states 
Mr. Stevens, the supercargo, William A. Fanning, organized the balance of 
this first fleet with his father. Captain Edmund Fanning. In view of the fact 
that Byers (in his letter to General Parker), intimated that Captain James P. 
Sheflield had offered to sail again in his employ, this seems to indicate that a 
subsequent conference with the Fannings (father and son) and other Stoning- 
ton sealing masters must have decided the organization of their own fleet of 
three more vessels to supplement the Frederick and her tender, the Freegift. 
The theory that the Hersilia arrived just before the Freegift sailed is an inter- 
esting one, and could have happened. Unquestionably, the Frederick and 
Freegift were the first two Stonington sealers to sail for the 1820—21 season. 
Then two other Stonington fleets were organized, one of which joined forces 
with the Frederick and Freegift, with Captain Pendleton of the former as 
their leader, and a second fleet of three vessels under Captain Alexander Clark. 

Captain Benjamin Pendleton of the Frederick was a veteran sealer. In 1815, 
he had sailed as first mate on the ship Volunteer of New York, with Captain 
Edmund Fanning of Stonington in command, the vessel being owned principally 
by James Byers. In 1817, Captain Pendleton assumed his first command, the 
brig Jane Maria, tender to the ship Sea Fox, Captain Edmund Fanning. These 
were also James Byers' vessels. It was Pendleton who had taken out the first 
Stonington-based sealing vessel — the Frederick — in 1818, the managing owners 
being Captain Fanning and his son, William. Succeeding Pendleton in charge 
of the Jane Maria for Byers had been Captain James P. Sheffield, who was 
then assuming his first command. The Jane Maria was subsequently com- 
manded by Captain Robert Johnson. Thus, we see how closely knit were the 
masters of the sealing fleets at this time. The Frederick' s first voyage had been 
one of great success. Captain Pendleton returning in November, 1819, with 
28,000 skins obtained off the west coast of South America which were sold for 

In August, 1820, the three other vessels of this first Stonington fleet (to be 
designated hereafter as the Fanning fleet), sailed for the South Shetlands via 
the Falklands. These were the brig Hersilia, with Captain Sheffield again in 



command; the schooner Express^ under Captain Ephraim Williams; and the 
sloop Hero, under Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer, previously second mate of 
the Hersilia. 

There was a second Stonington fleet sailing this same month. These were the 
ship Clothier, under Captain Alexander Clark of Nantucket (in command of 
this fleet), the brig Emeline, Captain Jeremiah Holmes, and the brig Catherine, 
Captain Joseph Henfield.^^ Little is known about this second Stonington fleet. 
Captain Edmund Fanning does not mention the fleet in his book. Captain Fanning 
was probably the outstanding citizen of Stonington in his time. But for his writ- 
ings, chiefly his book, "Voyages and Discoveries in the South Seas," little would 
be known about many of the sealers of Stonington. Although he compiled much 
of his chapter on the South Shetlands in his old age, after he had outlived his son 
and contemporaries, much of it is valuable. His lack of dates and related se- 
quences offers many puzzles to the historian. But comparison with other sources, 
chiefly logbooks, can bring into better perspective much of its important ma- 
terial. His confusion of the 1820-21 and the 1821-22 voyages of the Stoning- 
ton sealers has caused many misinterpretations, and this has brought about 
considerable misunderstanding. 

As for both these Stonington fleets, the comment of a neighboring editor is 
best quoted: ". . . May the success of this fleet be equal to the enterprising spirit 
of its owners." 

From Nantucket during the summer of 1820 three sealing schooners sailed, 
but only two of these were intended for the South Shetlands — the Harmony, 
Captain Thomas Ray, which left in July, and the Huntress, Captain Christopher 
Burdick, which sailed August 4, 1820.^^ The schooner William & Nancy, Cap- 
tain Folger, was at the Falklands this season, but arrived at the Shetlands much 
later than the other two. The whale ship Samuel, Captain Innot, also sailed to 
the Shetlands after learning of the new discovery while off Cape Horn, but she 
also arrived too late in the season for sealing.^^ 

The Byers' fleet from New York was an important factor in the South Shet- 
land exploration during this 1820-1821 season. The leading vessel was the 
brig Jane Maria, under command of Captain Robert Johnson, destined to be- 
come a leading Antarctic explorer. His companion vessels were the brig Aurora, 
Captain Macy, and schooner Henry, Captain B. Bruno. Another vessel to figure 
in the development of the South Shetland exploration was the brig Charity, 
listed as out of Baltimore but actually of New York. This mysterious craft was 
commanded by Captain Charles H. Barnard, perhaps one of the most adventure- 
encompassed mariners then alive. Seven years before he had been marooned in 
the Falklands when the crew of a shipwrecked British ship (which he had be- 
friended) turned on him, forcibly took his vessel, and left him and four others 
to live in solitude for two years before being rescued." 

Salem was represented by a ship (which may have been the General Knox, 
Captain William B. Orne) ; the brig Nancy, with Captain Benjamin Upton as 
master, and his tender, the schooner Governor Brooks. Sailing from Boston 



were the brig Stranger, Captain Adams; the ship O'Cain, Captain Jonathan 
Winship, and a schooner, believed tender to the latter vessel. New Bedford's 
lone entry in the field was the brig Gleaner, under Captain David Leslie. The 
port of New Haven sent John Davis in the ship Huron. The log of the Huron, 
together with that of the Huntress, serve as the basis for this monograph. 

Added to this notable array were an equal number of British and Scotch 
sealers, including one — the Lynx — from Botany Bay, Australia.'^* 

While we know of the departure of these vessels, as reported by the news- 
papers, their subsequent careers would be heavily masked by the mists of history 
but for the preservation of three contemporary logbooks. From these records, 
faded and in one instance almost illegible, we may reconstruct one of the most 
interesting years in our maritime history — the 1820-21 sealing season at the 
South Shetlands. 

In September, 1828, an Ohio Congressman named Jeremiah N. Reynolds 
prepared a report to Secretary of the Navy Samuel Southard, on certain dis- 
coveries in the Pacific Ocean by the whaling masters.^ In the concluding state- 
ment of this report he wrote: "I regret that I am not at liberty to communicate 
in writing all the interesting facts I have been enabled to collect from those 
engaged on the seal trade or, as they term it, the skinning business. ... In the 
history of the seal trade, secrecy in what they know has been deemed a part and 
a very important part, too, of their capital . . . that islands are frequented . . . 
and their position known to no one on board but the captain. . . ." 

This, in large measure, explains much of the paucity of information on 
the activities of these early visitors to the Antarctic and, by the same token, 
why the only reliable information is contained in the logbooks of the ships so 
engaged. Thus, it is necessary to use these original accounts for the true picture 
of what actually occurred in that memorable year of 1820-1821 at the South 
Shetlands. In presenting these logs, all pertinent entries are selected, so that, 
like a great picture puzzle, these portions may be used to fill out the features 
which comprise the whole. 



Portion of a Chart of West Falkland Island from an actual 

survey by Lieutenant Thotnas Edgar, of the Royal Navy. 

Note: North at bottom of chart 

(London, Published by Arrowsraith, 1831) 


The Hero and Express 
Sail to the South Shetlands 

In order to set the pattern for selecting (and putting together) the various 
pieces of the puzzle, it is necessary to take the existing records in their chrono- 
logical order. After the facts noted in the marine columns of the contemporary 
newspapers, the logbook records reveal the subsequent course of events. Fol- 
lowing the newspaper report that the ship Frederick, Captain Benjamin Pendle- 
ton, and the schooner Freegift, Captain Ephraim Williams, sailed in May, 1820, 
the logbooks themselves take up the story.^** 

First, the log of the 47-foot sloop Hero, Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer, which 
sailed from Stonington on August 12, 1820. The brig Hersilia, Captain Shef- 
field, had sailed several days before; the schooner Express, Captain Dunbar, 
sailed in company with the Hero according to the latter's log.^^ Available 
material does not state where these five vessels were to eventually meet, but 
it does appear to have been agreed that the latter three were to rendezvous at 
the Falklands or Staten Land. The Hero was not built as a special survey vessel, 
as one historian claimed, but was then nearly twenty years old.^^ 

Captain Palmer recorded his arrival at the Falklands on October 17, 1820, 
his landfall being at Berkley Sound. Here, as noted, he found two shallops 
belonging to the ship General Knox (of Salem) ; "the Express in company." 

Three days later, he got through "Cape Tamar Pass" where he anchored 
inside long enough to shoot "some geese and brant, etc.," and then spoke two 
English sealers, the cutter Eliza of London and the brig Jane of Leith, to- 
gether with a shallop belonging to the brig. At 4:00 that afternoon, the Hero 
got through the "Labyrinth" and anchored in West Point Harbor alongside 
the ship General Knox, Captain Orne, "Got out the boat and went on board. "^^ 

The sealing vessels mentioned by Palmer were all to play a part in the ex- 
ploration of the South Shetlands and the Antarctic seas. The master of the brig 
Jane was the famous English sealer, Captain James Weddell, whose name 
was to be identified with one of the best-known features of the Antarctic, the 
Weddell Sea — and also affixed to a species of seal — the Weddell Seal.^* 

That William A. Fanning was on board the Hero is borne out by Captain 
Palmer's note; "Mr. Fanning went on shore and returned with 30 geese." Six 
days later (October 26, 1820), the brig Emeline, Captain Holmes, which sailed 
from Stonington with him, had just arrived. Captain Holmes had stopped in 
at Rio de Janeiro on the voyage down. The brig Catherine, the Stonington con- 



sort of Emeline, under Captain Henfield, anchored off Volunteer Bay, close 


The Hero and Express then sailed for Staten Land, off the eastern coast of 
Tierra del Fucgo, close by Cape Horn. Here they lay for three days. If an 
agreement had been made to rendezvous at Port Hatches here, no one will 
ever know, as no written evidence exists, but this had been a well-known pro- 
visioning place for sealers for many years. 

On November 4, 1820, the Hero and Express got under way for their voyage 
to the South Shetlands. Captain Palmer recorded a five-day cruise south-south- 
east and on November 10, 1820, while anxiously looking for the Land, "sighted 
Mount Pesca (Smith Island) 30 miles away." The weather coming on thick 
they tacked off and on until 4 o'clock on the afternoon of November 12, when 
they stood in for Rugged Island, a small island off Livingston Island. 

At the mouth of the harbor, the Hero was met by a whaleboat from the 
Hersilia, Captain Sheffield on board.^* Wrote Palmer: ". . . he informed us he 
had run in 12 days and that the Frederick and Freegift, Capt Pendleton and 
Dunbar, were in a harbor on the opposite side of the strait." 

The Hero came in to anchor alongside the Hersilia, followed some hours 
later by the Express. Then they lowered a whaleboat and were rowed across 
the strait three miles to President Harbor, where they went alongside the 
Frederick and Freegift and were greeted there by their Stonington compatriots. 
The Fanning fleet was together for the first time, and thousands of miles from 
the home port of Stonington. 

On the western side of Livingston (largest of the South Shetland Islands) 
is President Harbor, called by the British "New Plymouth." A few miles away, 
the English sealers had already arrived and had set up camps along Livingston's 
north shore all the way from Start Point to Shirreff's Cape. This possession 
of the beaches in this region had an important bearing on the subsequent ac- 
tivities of the American sealers. 


The Schooner Huntress Meets 
the Ship Huron at the Falk lands 

Even while the Stonington vessels were getting ready to leave Staten Land for 
the South Shetlands, two vessels had arrived at the Falklands which were to 
follow them soon to the South Shetlands. Neither of these had previously met. 
One was the ship Huron, of New Haven, Captain John Davis, and the other, 
the schooner, Huntress, Captain Christopher Burdick of Nantucket. The Huron 
had sailed from her home port on March 20, 1820, and the Huntress on 
August 4, 1820.'^ 

Due to the loss of the first pages of the Huron's log, covering her 1820 
cruisings, it is not known when she reached the Falklands. The log of the 
Huntress reveals that Captain Burdick first took the schooner to the Cape 
Verde Islands (September 5, 1820) where a load of salt was put on board, 
and then headed south-southwest for the Falklands, where he arrived on 
October 31, 1820.3« 

Sighting the land at 3 :30 o'clock in the morning bearing southeast. Captain 
Burdick tacked off shore until 8 :00 A.M., when he stood in for his landfall. 
*'I juged it to be the Western Falkland," he recorded in his log, "and ... at 
12 m. made an opening in the Land which apear'd to form a bay at the same 
time made several small islands bearing west about 4 leagues. Latitude 51° 12' 

With characteristic thoroughness. Captain Burdick sent a whaleboat in to 
survey the channel, his logbook reading: 

", . . The boat return'd and reported 2 fathoms in the pass & no roles & 
a large Sound inside whore ship & run in, sent the boat ahead & cros'd 
the sound to the southward which was six miles wide & 10 fathoms 
water Went in to a snug harbor at 5 p.m. anchored in 2 fathoms so 
Ends Sea Acc't." 

This landfall was off Byron's Sound and the little anchorage was in Bense 
Harbor inside Bense Island, at the promontory between North and King 
George's Bay. This picturesque portion of the West Falklands was one of 
the most frequented rendezvous of the sealers and whalers, utilized by them 
for over half a century — a veritable crossroads of a watery world which 
only this breed of sea-nomad habitually visited. Two large islands — the English 
and Spanish "Maloons" — were separated by a sound, the entire region being 
rich in the colorful names given by pirates, merchantmen, whalers and sealers. 



Such landfalls as the Jasons, Swan, Beaver, Hog, and Carcass islands, pointed 
the way to States, Quaker, Elephant and Port Egmont harbors. Byrons, Berk- 
ley and King George's sounds contained islets like Horse Block, Colliers, 
Golden Ball, Whale, Fish and Split islands, and narrow channels were named 
Bald Head Roads, Hell Gates, Nine Pin and False Passage. 

It is of considerable importance to note in both the logs kept by Captain 
Davis and Captain Burdick that these were men of more than average ability 
as navigators. Further, they were men whose writings display a lively curiosity, 
of which the following entry is a good example. On the day following his 
anchoring the Huntress in Bense Harbor, her master wrote: 

". . . took one man with me on shore and went up onto a hill one half mile 
high. From [it] I Could Count about fifty Islands which formed the 
Sound the principal part the smaler islands lay on the Southward of 
the Sound the land I was to anchor under, which I suppos'd to be the 
main Island, proved to be one large Island. It being very hazy I Could 
not Determine whether ther was any Islands to the Southward and 
Westward of me. Shot one dozen fine geese & got on board at 6 p.m. 
So Ends. The land to the Northard hindered gitting the Sun. Suppos'd 
Lat51° 20V' 

The sudden violence of the gales which often swept the Falklands is best 
shown by the Huntress log's entry for November 2, 1820. Captain Burdick 
was shifting the salt in the main hold, so as to get at the heel of his mainmast, 
when a northwest gale developed. 

"... At 1 1 A.M. gale increasing Schooner hooked her anchor. Let go the 
small ancor, veered out 25 x 50 on the other, which Brought the kedge 
ahead with 60 fathoms. At 12 it Blew tremendous the schooner started 
with them all. Let go the Sheat anchor & veared out on him and then I 
turned in. All this time we were Lying under the Lee of the Land, 3/4 
mile off in less than 2 fathoms of water and good holding ground & 
Smooth all except the wind had the water right up. At 6 p.m. moderate. 
Took up Sheat anchor." 

Using the foreyard and main boom for sheers, Captain Burdick's crew 
"hoisted the mainmast out of the Step and cut five feet off the heal & stepped 
it anew, which Brought the place Sprung in the wake of the hardness." 

It was while lying at Bense Harbor, setting up his standing rigging again, 
that Captain Burdick reported a mysterious incident. On the morning of 
November 4, a small schooner was sighted off the mouth of the harbor. The 
Huntress ran up her "coulars" (American flag) and the stranger headed in 
to their harbor. The Nantucket skipper reported: 

". . . She run in in passing our stern I hailed her and asked, where from. 
She answere'd, from West Point. She asked me the Same question in pass- 
ing. I thinking she was Coming to anchor ask'd no more questions She 
tack'd soon after & went ahead Eas'd of her sheat & out she went without 



anything more pasing between us and was soon out of sight behind the 
Land to the N.E. I should juge she was about 40 tons, had one fish Boat 
on deck & Long Boat and Eight men. Whether she was an American or 
(not) I Could not determine as she sot no CouUas, but I should judg the 
former By the Bilt of the vessel. So Ends." 

This was, indeed, an unusual incident. Although sealers were the most 
mysterious of mariners — as "secrecy was what they deemed their capital" — 
when two vessels from the same country met in such remote corners of the 
world the masters and crews were always anxious for a "gam." The mys- 
terious action of the stranger piqued the Nantucketer's natural curiosity. The 
following morning at 8 :00 o'clock, Captain Burdick took a whaleboat and 
crew and went around the island, inside which he was anchored, and surveyed 
the shore line. 

"... I Landed on a Large Island to the Southward of me, [wrote Cap- 
tain Burdick] and went to a Mountain to see what I could. But the 
Clouds on the mountain hindered me from seing. Returned to the vessel 
at 6 P.M. without Being much wizer." 

But there was a sequel to the visit of the mysterious schooner, one which 
brought about a decision which changed the entire course of the Huntress' 
subsequent voyage and the careers of her master and crew. That there were 
other vessels in the vicinity was not surprising to the Nantucketers. But the 
fact that their strange visitor had not "hove-to" had aroused their curiosity. 
Captain Burdick decided to search for the other schooner. 

Three days later, Saturday, November 11, 1820, with her re-rigging com- 
pleted, a number of casks of water taken aboard and the men refreshed, the 
Huntress was taken out on a cruise along which he sailed through "several 
passages no more than 1/4 mile wide," and five hours later came to the west 
end of the main island. While running up to West Point Island, Captain 
Burdick made out to starboard a wide channel leading between the high cliffs 
of West Point and the shore of the main island.^® He entered the passage and 
soon came out into a commodious anchorage basin known as Hope Harbor. 
Here was the answer to his question. Lying at their anchors were two ships 
and their tenders and shallops. Captain Burdick reported it thus: 

". . . anchored in Hope harbor in West BlufJ where I found two Ships 
and there Shallops, one from New Haven, Bound to the East'd, and the 
other from Salem had been lying hear two years past and with a part 
of a load of oil and a few skins. The former left New Haven last March, 
was the Huron, Capt. Davis."^® 

And so, it may be said, that the two vessels which were to help make history 
in the South Shetlands literally searched each other out, and that this chance 
meeting in the Falklands was like a fateful twist — the prologue to a greater 
drama which was to take place in the remote regions of the South Shetlands. 

With the customary laconic recording of most seafaring men of his time, 



Captain Burdick said little about this first meeting with Captain Davis. The 
log of the Huntress does not disclose whether or not one of the shallops was 
the mysterious visitor at Bense Harbor. It merely reports that the crew became 
busily employed in repairing the schooner's sails and that they "cut 2 feet off 
mains'l, there not being hoist for it." But at some time during the next four 
days, the two shipmasters, Burdick and Davis, entered into an "agreement," 
whereby they were to sail in company to the South Shetlands, including the 
Huron's shallop, the little schooner Cecilia, and at the islands join their crews 
and hunt seals as a joint enterprise. 

The little fleet — ship Huron, schooner Huntress and shallop Cecilia — left 
Hope Harbor and the Falklands on November 22, 1820, and the log of the 
Huntress notes that they took their departure from Cape Percival (New 
Island) latitude 51° 47' south and longitude 61° IT west, the compass vari- 
ation then being 22° east. Three days later, at 8 o'clock in the morning, they 
sighted Staten Land and took another land departure in latitude 54° 48' south. 

The course was now set for the South Shetlands, four hundred miles to the 
south-southeast of Cape Horn. 


Landfalls at the South Shetlands 

After two days' sailing on a course south-southeast, the Huntress log records 
running into thick, rainy weather. On Wednesday, November 29, they hove 
to, "juging it not safe to run. Saw several fur seal in the water alongside." 
In the afternoon it lighted up and Captain Burdick took a sight and figured 
her latitude as being 61° 26' south. A heavy snow storm developed during the 
night, and again they hove to. The log of the Huntress noted "being in Coul- 
lered water" and a "very thick haze to the S.S.E. At 10 A.M. the water being 
very much discoullered sounded 150 fathoms, no bottom." 

They were in typical South Shetland weather — rain, snow, fog, a slight 
clearing, then the same conditions repeated in varied order. But the evidences 
of land had been well substantiated and at midday on November 30, 1820, 
Captain Burdick wrote: "made the Land bearing S.E. hauled on a wind to the 
Southward . . . Huron and Shallop in Co. Lat. 62" T South." 

While their crews unbent the cables and got the anchors on the bows, the 
Huntress, Huron and shallop stood in to find a harbor. On December 3, 1820, 
while only three-quarters of a mile from shore, a thick fog shut in and the 
vessels stood off for safety. Now the shallop Cecilia left them to search for a 
suitable harbor. The heavy fog, like a giant curtain, soon hid the little shallop 
from view. 

It was not until two days later that the shallop was again sighted. In the 
interim she had found a fine harbor at a cove on the west side of Greenwich 
Island, which was called Yankee Harbor.^^ The next twenty-four hours found 
the shallop hunting for the Huron and Huntress, which, all this while, had 
anxiously tacked off and on the wild coast. At last, early on December 7, 1820, 
the Huntress sighted the shallop and learned that a harbor had been found. 
The Huron soon came up to them. Piloting the ship and schooner toward 
Yankee Sound — a wide channel between Greenwich and Livingston (Freze- 
land) islands — the Cecilia shallop led the way to an anchorage basin later 
called by the English Hospital Cove but named by its New England discoverers 
Yankee Harbor. The log of the Huntress records ". . . came to at 6 p.m. in 16 
fathoms, landlocked. Found four Stonington vessels here. So ends my sea 

These Stonington vessels were the Frederick, Freegift, Hersilia and Express 
— the Hero being absent on its mission of picking up sealskins at the camps 
along the nearby shores of Livingston Island. ^^ Since their arrival at the South 
Shetlands early in November, these experienced sealers had been busy. As has 



been noted, when the Hero and Express arrived at Hersilia Cove on Rugged 
Island on November 12, they found they had been preceded by some twelve 
days by the other three vessels in the fleet. Captam Pendleton their leader, 
apparently intended using President Harbor (or New Plymouth) on Living- 
ston Island, as the headquarters for the fleet. Spars, casks, wood and other 
supplies were landed here by the Hero and Express}^ 






The Falklands, Cape Horn, Staten Land and The South 
Shetland Islands 

(After Edmund Blunt, New York, 1834) 


Captain Palmer'* s Exploratory 
Cruise in the Hero 

The Fanning fleet of Stonington vessels did not remain here long. Whether 
it was because some British sealers were in possession of nearby rookeries is 
not known, but three days later (November 15, 1820) the log of the Hero 
recorded the start of a cruise along the south shores of Livingston Island. 
Captain Palmer's account of this cruise indicates it was not only to seek new 
rookeries (which some historians have claimed) but also to look for a better 
harbor for the fleet. Captain Palmer's own words verify this as the log itself 
shows.^* He sailed the sloop between Rugged and President (Snow) islands, 
(through Morton Strait and Hell Gates passage) , and steered east for the north 
head of Deception Island. Running into a heavy snow storm as night fell, he 
tacked back to the north, then east under reefed mainsail, coming up under 
Livingston Island, or "Frezeland" as the American sealers called it. 

Several American historians claim that it was on this cruise that Captain 
Palmer discovered the Antarctic Continent to the south, seventy miles away." 
But his log shows that during the next twenty-four hours. Palmer explored the 
south coast of Livingston Island, especially its southeastern shore. The largest 
in the South Shetlands, this island was forty miles long, with a shore line low 
on the west end but rising to great heights as the land ran to the east-northeast. 
The shore here was indented with bays. As he explored this southern coast of 
Livingston Island, Captain Palmer found two good harbors for sealing craft. 
He records his explorations as follows in his log of the Hero: 

Nov. 15, 1820: 'These 24 hours commences with Thick weather Light 
breese from N.W. at 2 p.m. clearing off [Left President Harbor] Got 
Underway on a cruise for Deception [Island] course East for the North 
head wind Light at N by W at 8 Being close in with the Land tacked to 
the Northw'd Middle part Thick snow storm at 12. . . . Reffd the main- 
sail Tacked to the Ewd at 5 made the Land stood along to the S'd 
and E'd saw what we thought to Be a harbor Lowered Down the Boat 
and Examined it but were Disappointed stood along to the southwd 
saw an Opening stood in found it to be a spacious harbor with very 
Deep water 50 to 60 fathoms got out the boat to sound found anchorage 
about a mile from the mouth, at 1 1 we came too in fifteen fathoms off the 
mouth of a Lagoon went on shore and got some eggs Ends with Thick 
weather and calm." 


A portion of a chart of the South Shetland Islands drawn by Captain 

James Waddell showing Livingston's (Frezeland) Island, with 

Palmers Bay and other places frequented by the sealers 

(From "A Voyage Toward the South Pole," 1825) 



From this entry the course of the Hero can be clearly followed. The heavy 
snow storm forced him to get clear of Deception Island, and after tacking to 
the north at 8 P.M., he "made the Land" again at Livingston Island's south 
coast and followed its rocky indentations until he discovered the harbor. Char- 
cot calls this Ereby's Bay on his chart. Livingston Island's southern coast line 
is over forty miles long. 

Captain Palmer then continued his explorations. On Tuesday, November 16, 
he got under way at 2 in the afternoon with a fresh breeze from the northwest. 
He wrote: ". . . Beat up the Harbor, stood over to the south shore, sounded 
along and found no anchorage at 6 P.M. got up to the head we very suddenly 
shoaled our water to 2>4 fathoms and came too." 

Another heavy snow storm developed and Captain Palmer lay to until 5 
o'clock the next morning. After taking soundings, he wrote: ". . . went to an- 
other further Dist. sounded in 15 fathoms at the entrance and 10,7-6-5 within 
found it to be an excellent Harbor secure from all winds. Returned on Board. 
. . ." This discovery was the embayed harbor which Weddell clearly marked 
Palmer's Harbor on his chart. American historians. Colonel Martin and Pro- 
fessor Hobbs, however, place Captain Palmer in the harbor of Deception 
Island, the former claiming he sailed down the west coast of that island and 
around the southern end into Deception Harbor. The logbook entries of Cap- 
tain Palmer himself show this was not his course. 

On the next day, November 17, Palmer got under way and stood out of his 
harbor, course S by E ^. At 10 A.M. he was clear of the harbor and "stood 
over for the Land." Several historians have placed Captain Palmer under the 
heights of Trinity Island, at the Antarctic Peninsula, some fifty miles away. 
By this reasoning they have had him sailing from Deception Island. But the 
log entries make no further references to this Island after he was turned away 
from it by the snow storm on the night of November 15, 1820. Through their 
assumption that he reached it, these historians have made his course decidedly 
different from that given above, which is the course which this writer feels 
the Hero's log substantiates. However, the single entry which they utilize to 
place the Hero over against the mainland of Antarctica, fifty miles to the south, 
cannot be taken as solitary evidence — it must be studied in conjunction with the 
previous and subsequent entries of this particular cruise of the Hero. The fact 
that the word "Land" is capitalized is no reason in itself to state that Captain 
Palmer meant the continent of Antarctica. Both he and others of his con- 
temporaries used the capitalization of "Land" for islands in the South Shet- 
land group. In this instance the "Land" was Livingston Island. His entries 
for the next two days show how carefully he followed his exploration of this 
coast line. On Friday, November 17, 1820, the log records: 

"These 24 hours commences with fresh Breese from SWest and Pleasant 
at 8 P.M. got over under the Land found the sea filled with imense Ice 
Bergs — at 12 [midnight] hove Too under the Jib Laid off & on 
until morning, at 4 a.m. made sail in shore and Discovered-a-strait- 



Tending SSW & NNE it was Litcraly filled with Ice and the shore 
inaccessible thought it not Prudent to Venture in we Bore away to 
the Northw'd and saw 2 small Islands and the shore every where Per- 
pendicular we stood across toward Freseland [Livingston Island] course 
NNW the Latditude[sic] of the mouth of the strait was 63.45 S End 
with fine weather wind SSW." 

With this entry, several American historians, notably Colonel Lawrence 
Martin and Professor William H. Hobbs, claim that Captain Palmer dis- 
covered the Antarctic Continent. The course which they set for the Hero has 
been stated above and has received considerable approbation. Captain Na- 
thaniel Brown Palmer was an outstanding mariner. His career rivals fiction. 
He was a superior shipmaster, a designer of ships, a very successful captain 
in the China trade, and a man of unusual ability. It is a pity that the fire which 
destroyed his home In Stonlngton also burned many of his papers. A further 
examination of his Antarctic exploits will be found In the Appendix. Both 
Martin and Hobbs have devoted much research to the Palmer cruise of Novem- 
ber, 1820. 

It is unfortunate that there Is no evidence (in the logbook entries noted 
above) that Captain Palmer ever took a sight on these days or even kept up 
his position by dead reckoning. The estimate he gives for the mouth of the 
strait he discovered cannot be verified by any of such observations. 

A further aspect to the interpretation of this particular cruise of the Hero is 
Captain Palmer's description of his course after he left his harbor on the after- 
noon of November 17, 1820. He states: ". . . stood over for the Land Course 
S by E 3^ ... at 8 p.m. got over under the Land found the sea filled with imense 
Ice Bergs — at 12 hove Too . . . Laid off & on until morning at 4 AM made sail 
in shore and Discovered a Strait. . . . shore every where Perpendicular we stood 
across towards Freseland Course N N W. . . ." If he was some fifty miles away 
from Livingston or Frezeland Island, as several historians claim, and under the 
shores of the peninsula, it is obvious that he would not have carefully noted 
that he was going to stand "across towards Freseland." He must have been 
in much closer proximity to this great Island. 

During the next twenty-four hours. Captain Palmer saw "plenty of whales 
and Ice." At 2 o'clock in the morning on November 19, he took in his main- 
sail and "Laid off and On under Freesland," and at 4 o'clock he made sail, 
"Running along shore course by compass NNE" until at 6 o'clock he discovered 
the mouth of a harbor, where he went ashore and killed one seal. This was a 
cruise into Yankee Sound and he soon dropped anchor at Half Moon Island, 
"about 2 miles from the strait's mouth."'** 

This cruise can be followed clearly. Was the entrance to Yankee Sound the 
"strait's mouth" as Captain Palmer called It? It was not the same strait he 
had sighted the day before and they had found inaccessible due to ice. The 
latitude as given by Palmer is not the same as the actual latitude of the Sound. 
In fact the only contemporary description of this portion of the South Shetlands 



is that given by Admiral Bellingshausen, the Russian explorer, along this same 
shore some two months later. 

Bellingshausen's journals show him to be the first to come up to the South 
Shetlands from the west southwest after a voyage below the 65° parallel of 
latitude. He came up past Smith's Island, saw Snow Island, and sailed along 
the southern coast of Livingston, sighting eight American and British sealing 
vessels at anchor near the southeastern shore of Morton Straits. To starboard 
he soon saw "a high island, with steep clifEs and its heights covered with clouds 
Deception Island . . . separated from the high rocky headlands opposite Liv- 
ingston Island by a strait 11 miles wide." This would seem to be the strait 
discovered by Captain Palmer, and rightfully named Palmer Strait. Bellings- 
hausen continued with his account of meeting Captain Palmer. This meeting 
took place on January 20, 1821, two months after Captain Palmer first came 
into this strait. 

Bellingshausen's journal states: 

' "... at noon we were in lat. 62°49' south, longitude 60" 18' west, 

course parallel to shore northeast by cast . . . [This is the same course 
Palmer followed in gaining Yankee Strait or McFarlane Strait as the 
British named it] ... at 1 :30 passed across the mouth of a strait not more 
than 2 miles wide. The shore which we had held from 4 o'clock in 
the morning up to this time proved to be an island, Livingston Island, 
41 miles long, lying E by N J^ E. The western end was low and covered 
with snow only in parts. The eastern half of the island consisted of high 
mountains covered with snow and ice and hidden by clouds. [Barnard 
Peak] The shore was rocky and sheer. [Palmer states: '. . . and the 
shore everywhere perpendicular.'] The most southerly end of the island 
projects into the sea as two ridges and forms a bay."*^ 

After discovering an excellent harbor, later called Yankee Harbor, across 
the strait from Half Moon Island, Captain Palmer went up Yankee Sound, 
took his whaleboat and went through the dangerous passage between Greenwich 
and Livingston islands to find "a fine plain, 2 miles in Length and 1 in breadth 
— and fine harbors."^* This was the rookery at Blythe Bay. Returning to the 
Hero, he got under way and returned to President's Harbor, the same way 
he had come. His mission of discovery had been accomplished. Captain Pendle- 
ton then decided that the entire fleet should go to the newly-discovered Yankee 
Harbor in Greenwich Island. The Hero's log shows that this was done and 
that on November 23, 1820, this Fanning fleet of Stonington craft got under 
way, went into Palmer's Straits (between Deception and Livingston islands) 
at 1 1 A.M. on November 24, and at 4 p.m. on that same day came to anchor 
in Yankee Harbor. Incidentally, they first called it Port Williams. Captain 
Weddell, the British sealer, called it Fanning Harbor on his map of the South 
Shetlands. Powell called it Hospital Cove. 


Tankee Harbor Becomes 
the Sealers' Rendezvous 

In this harbor, therefore, on December 8, 1820, the Huntress and Huron and 
their shallop finally found a haven. It was a fortunate location. The Stonington 
fleet had done and were doing well. The Hero's log shows that Captain Pendle- 
ton's fleet had already salted down 10,000 skins. This was during the twelve 
days between their anchoring at Yankee Harbor and the arrival of the New 
Haven and Nantucket craft. It was the Hero which took out the men and put 
them ashore and later returned to pick up the skins. The Cecilia — shallop — 
was the similar tender for the Huron and the Huntress. 

The newly arrived sealers got to work without delay. Captain Burdick's log 
of the Huntress reveals how the joint arrangement with the Huron was put 
into practice. The entry for December 9, 1820, reads: 

"Begins with brisk breses from N W Sent Mr. Coleman first mate of 
the Huntress and Eight men on board the Shallop with one Boat the Ship 
sent twenty-two and 2 boats at 10 a.m. the Shallop went out to find a 
place to Land the men for Sealing . . . ." 

The men so landed would set up camps at the rookeries selected along the 
shore, erecting rude tents for shelter and caching their provisions. Never was 
there a more desolate place for such work. Dr. Young, surgeon for the Williams 
during the Bransfield voyage in the South Shetlands early in 1820, described 
the coast: 

"The whole line of coast appeared high, bold, and rugged ; rising abruptly 
from the sea in perpendicular snow cliffs, except here and there where 
the naked face of a barren rock shewed itself amongst them. In the 
interior, the land, or rather the snow, sloped gradually and gently up- 
ward into high hills .... Three days after this we anchored in an ex- 
tensive bay . . . words can scarcely be found to describe its barrenness and 
sterility. Only one small spot of land was discovered on which a landing 
could be effected . . . being bounded by inaccessible cliffs ... a single 
beach, on which there was a heavy surf beating, and from which a small 
stream of fresh water ran into the sea. Nothing was to be seen but the 
rugged surface of the barren rocks, upon which myriads of sea fowl had 
laid their eggs — the multitudes of the finest fur-seals ... the fur is the 
finest and longest I have ever seen . . . ."*® 

In such places the sealers established their several camps, and the shallop 



having landed them in a whaleboat, sailed back to Yankee Harbor. Now 
followed alternate periods of fierce activity and utter boredom. The method 
of killing and skinning the seals has been described by many writers from Cap- 
tain Cook's time, but that renowned Duxbury mariner, Captain Amasa Delano, 
does it as well as any: 

". . . The method practised to take them was to get between them and 
the water, and make a lane of men, two abreast, forming three or four 
couples, and then drive the seal through this lane; each man furnished 
with a club, between five and six feet long and as they passed, he knocked 
down such of them as he chose, which are commonly the half-grown. 
. . . When stunned, knives are taken to cut and rip them down on the 
breast from the under jaw, to the tail, giving a stab in the breast that will 
kill them. After this the hands got to skinning. I have seen men, one 
of whom would skin sixty in an hour. They take off all the fat, and 
some of the lean, with the skin, as the more weight there is to the skin, 
the easier it will beam."^° 

The curing or "beaming" process was accomplished by scraping the fatty 
tissue away, and then washing the surface thoroughly, and Delano states: 

"This is done in the same manner in which curriers flesh their skins, 
after which it is stretched and pegged on the ground to dry. . . . After this 
they are taken out of pegs and stacked in the manner of salt cod-fish. 
They will sweat whilst in the pile, so as to render it necessary to open 
them and give them air, two or three times. After which they may be 
stacked in a ship's hold, and will keep for years ... if kept dry."'^^ 


The Search for New Rookeries 
and the Fate of the Clothier 

While the Cecilia was landing the men for the salting up of these camps along 
the south coast of Livingston Island, the two captains, John Davis and Chris- 
topher Burdick, learned firsthand from Captain Pendleton and his Stonington 
men of the sealing season to date. It is apparent that the newcomers found 
that the Stonington men were chiefly concentrated on the southwest shore of 
Livingston and that there were a number of English vessels which had already 
established camps on the north shore. This led them to make an exploratory 
cruise of their own. On December 13, 1820, Captain Burdick recorded in the 
log of the Huntress: 

". . . Captain Davis and myself with seven men went up Yankee Sound 
to the westward in a Boat [whaleboat], to Sea if we could Sea any 
place for Seal about 12 miles up the Sound, which brought us out on the 
West Side found a Scotch Brigg to anchor She had her men on Shore 
on a Bech But there was no Seal up found no passage out to the West- 
ward through this Sound for anything more than a boat being full of 
rocks at 2 p.m. returned to our vessels with fifteen Seal the Shallop not 
returned. So Ends." 

This exploratory cruise is of more than passing interest. It was similar to 
the one which Captain Palmer had accomplished three weeks before. Fortu- 
nately both log entries are preserved, but it is unfortunate that Captain Burdick 
did not give the name of the "Scotch brigg." It could have been the Jane of 
Leith under that excellent master, Captain James Weddell.^^ 

On the following day, December 14, the Huntress' log notes that a strange 
whaleboat came into Yankee Harbor. It proved to be from: "Captain [Alex- 
ander] Clark's fleet from Stonington and reported the Loss of Capt. Clark's 
ship the Clothier which ran on a Rock in attempting to make a harbor about 
15 miles to the westward of where we lay; the rest of his fleet had harbored 
close by the ship and was saving what they could." The Clothier had been 
wrecked on December 9, and her loss was a serious setback to the fortunes of 
the second Stonington fleet. 

This fleet probably reached a rendezvous here a day or so after the Express 
and Hero had joined the Fanning-Pendleton fleet at Rugged Island. As the 
brigs Emeline and Catherine (the other members of Clark's fleet), were at 



the Falkland Islands while the Hero was there, it is fair to assume that the 
Clothier had arrived at the Shetlands before them. The place where the wreck 
lay came to be known as Clothier Harbor, and is on the north shore of Green- 
wich Island about fifteen miles from Yankee Harbor. 


Captain Burdick^s First Cruise 
The New Tork Fleet 

The Cecilia returned on December 15, 1820, and Captain Burdick got her 
ready for a return cruise to the camps. She brought 66 skins, and 19 of these 
were placed aboard the Huntress, showing the proportion or lay of the re- 
spective vessels. Leaving only one man and a boy aboard the schooner. Captain 
Burdick set out on his first cruise in the shallop heading "southward and west- 
ward round an Island called Frezeland [Livingston], bearing SSW from our 
harbor." The record of the Cecilia's cruise is contained in the log of the 

The Cecilia sailed at 1 p.m. on the afternoon of December 16, and due to 
light winds and calm did not get clear of Yankee Sound until late the next day, 
it being necessary to tow the little schooner out around Frezeland Point. 

A half mile away, the Hero, under Captain Palmer, sighted the Cecilia pro- 
ceeding to the south-southwest along shore. Captain Burdick reported, at 
9 P.M. on December 18, ". . . fell in with Captain Johnson's fleet of New York 
from Ruged Island looking for Yankee Harbor. This fleet consists of one Brig 
{^Charity, Captain Barnard] two schooners {^Jane Maria, Captain Johnson and 
Henry, Captain Bruno] and Shallop [under Captain MacKay]. Later part 
fresh Brezes at south." 

On December 19 and 20, Captain Burdick sailed the Cecilia to the three 
shore stations set up on the south coast of Livingston Island. At the first he 
took off the whaleboat and crew and 82 skins; at the second station he was 
forced to lay off and on under sail, "it blowing a gale on Shore we Could neither 
Land nor they git off." Landing safely the next day, he took off the shore crew 
and 500 skins. The third station was only five miles further west along shore, 
and he took off this crew and 480 skins. 

Captain Burdick made an important entry on this day. He noted that his 
third boat's crew had found: 

". . . about 50 men Stationed on this Bech which was about 7 miles in 
Extent which consisted Chiefly of the Stonington Co. which had landed 
40 men. Thought I would pass round Frezeland Island to westward 
and return. But it Coming Calm Landed the remainder making in all 
28 men and three boats, at 12 midnight started for the Harbor the same 
way I came."^' 

It was 10 o'clock the next evening (December 20) when Captain Burdick 



again dropped the shallop's anchor in Yankee Harbor. He found Captain 
Robert Johnson's (New York) fleet, "all their to anchor." The load of skins 
was then transferred to the Huron and Huntress, his share being 335. 

This cruise proved several things to Captain Burdick and Captain Davis. 
At their three camps they had collected 1,062 skins, while the Stonington camps 
during the same time had put aboard the Hero a total of 4,000 skins.^^ This 
was in addition to the 10,000 already salted away before the Huron and 
Huntress had arrived in Yankee Harbor. Further than this, the log of the 
Hero shows that Captain Palmer was collecting skins on the north shore of 
Livingston Island as well, picking up from camps between Shirreff's Cape and 
Williams Point in "BIythe" Bay — named from Blyth, home port of the dis- 
covery brig Williams — and had brought in on December 13 a total of 5,916 
and 6,865 more on December 16. To this total, the record shows 8,229 skins 
were added to the Fanning-Stonington fleet from the camps on December 19. 


Exploring the South Shetlands 

The Seal Hunters Extend the Range of their Cruising 

It is obvious that such a tremendous slaughter of the seals was not only rapidly 
exterminating them but that, after the Stonington camps had been established, 
it was increasingly difficult for other sealing vessels to get more than the "leav- 
ings." As a result, the other sealing vessels at Yankee Harbor were forced to 
seek new rookeries and this meant exploring the shores of other islands until 
they found them. 

On December 22, Captain Davis began his first cruise in the Cecilia, return- 
ing to the South Bay of Livingston Island.^^ The log of the Huntress reported 
that Captain Johnson's shallop came in on December 24 with 1,600 skins, no 
doubt from the eastward, as neither Captain Palmer nor Burdick mentioned 
the New York boats as cruising along Livingston Island's shores. 

While waiting for the Cecilia's return, Captain Burdick gives us some im- 
portant glimpses of Yankee Harbor and of his work guarding his vessel. On 
Christmas Day, 1820, he is particularly interesting: 

"Begins with strong Gales at N E with Snow and hail Me and the 
Boy busily engaged in scraping the ice from the Cables and Sides of 
the schooner The NE side of our harbor is formd By an Iceburg from 
three to five hundred feet high from the surface of the water, which 
Break off in flakes of 4 or 5 hundred tons with a report as Loud as a 
Cannon These pieces of ice float in the water and the wind drives them 
afoul of us which is very chafing Latter part moderates. Employd in 
mending Scrivits on the cables. So Ends this Day."^^ 

On December 28, 1820, Captain Davis returned from the camps with 1,384 
skins. It is quite clear that the seal in the camp areas were becoming scarce, 
and that it behooved the hunters to find new rookeries as quickly as possible, 
as Captain Davis left again that very same day. This cruise lasted twelve days, 
during which Captain Davis circumnavigated most of the South Shetlands. 

". . . at 4 P.M. Capt. Davis returned with the shallop he had crused as 
far to the NE as the Land Extended but found now Seal to speak of. 
He fell in with an English Ship and Brig that wher Castaway; took 
part of ther Crews and put them on Board of English Vessels Lying at 
Raged Island. Returned by where the men where Stationed Brought 
in 2470 Skins — took 696 on Board being my part. He informed me that 
Samuel Johnson had run away. . . . The skins were found to be in Very 


The South Shetlands 

(After James Imray & Son, London, 1863) 



Bad order, owing to their being so Long taken & having no salt. So 

A glance at the chart of the Shetlands shows that this sealing cruise of Cap- 
tain Davis was one of considerable extent. Upon leaving Yankee Harbor and 
sailing to the north and east, Captain Davis with his shallop passed by Green- 
wich, Robert and Nelson islands, then approached King George Island; 
rounded Cape Melville and the North Foreland, then sailed west southwest 
along the north shores of the Shetland chain. Between these larger islands 
ran English, Nelson and Filde's straits. On Nelson's Island was "Harmony 
Cove," another New England sealers' rendezvous, named for the Harmony, 
Captain Ray of Nantucket. Nelson's Island was called "O'Cain's" after the 
Boston sealing vessel of that name, under the famous Captain Jonathan Win- 
ship. On the southwest coast of King George Island was "Potter's Cove," 
where Captain Winship had his headquarters." 

The identity of one of the wrecked British sealers may possibly be established 
as the ship Lady Trowbridge, Captain Richard Sherrat. This rescue and trans- 
portation of the British castaways to English vessels at Rugged Island was a 
praiseworthy task. Captain Davis probably had an interesting account, but 
those details are lost, as the pages in his log are missing. It is known that the 
Lady Trowbridge was wrecked on December 20, 1820. 

The desertion of Samuel Johnson is a mystery. As it is recorded that he ran 
away, it is probable that he may have joined an English shore gang. He is not 
listed in the Huron's roster and so must have been a member of the Huntress' 

What is now known as Nelson Straits may well have been discovered by 
Captain Davis as in his log entry of February 19, 1822, he refers to leaving the 
South Shetlands at "Davis Straits" between Nelson and Roberts islands. 


Captain Bur dick Is Caught in a Gale 

On her next cruise to the south shore of Livingston, the Cecilia was under 
Captain Burdick. He left Yankee Harbor late in the afternoon, December 17, 
1820, and ran into a westerly gale before he reached the southeast point of 
Frezeland. The next day he steered along shore and early on the morning of 
December 19, ". . . came to anchor inside of two rocky Ledges in seven fathoms 
water, abrest of where our men was stationed." After taking off 981 skins, 
Captain Burdick again got under way. "At 10 A.M. the wind came out ENE," 
he records, "whether thick snow, and within fifteen minutes it Blew a tremen- 
dous gale. Got her under close ref'd sails and Stood to the Southward and 
Eastward on a wind. So ends with a tremendous sea and perishing cold wether." 
The Nantucket Captain's entries are of unusual interest. Like Captain Davis, 
when he had anything to say, he wrote a vigorous, descriptive style. His log 
gives excellent bearings, so that his various cruisings are always easily followed. 
For example, during the twenty-four hours when he was caught in the strong 
gale off southwest Livingston Island, he tells us on January 20, 1821 : 

"Commences with strong gales at East with thick snow and a most 
tremendous sea ... at 2 p.m. whore round and headed to the Northward 
& Eastward at 4 a.m. lighted Saw President Island [Snow L] about 
three miles on our Lee beam and Frezeland [Livingston] ahead and 
place where we took our seals 1^ points on our wether Bow and gale 
still increasing. Took in the mainsail whore round run between Presi- 
dent Island and Frezeland among a parcel of Ledges and hauled round 
between Ruged Island [and] Frezeland and anchored in 7 fathoms with 
both anchors." 

This handling of the little shallop in such dangerous waters and running her 
through Hell Gates is worthy of a closer examination, and the chart gives mute 
evidence of Captain Burdick's seamanship. 

Meanwhile at Yankee Harbor, this same gale was causing much alarm. 
Captain Davis recorded (in his log of the Huron) that his anchors were drag- 
ging and that he put down a third but still could not hold the ship ". . . till 
we got very near the Beach when she Brought up, not being more than a half 
cable's Length from Shore, altho so near we had all Fathoms of water under 
our stern. Ends moderate and Cloudy. "^^ 

The Huron's predicament was still dangerous and so all the shipmasters 
joined with Captain Davis and his ship-keepers to get her away from the 
Yankee Harbor's rocky shore. Captains Pendleton, Sheffield, and Dunbar, of 



the Stonington fleet; Captains Barnard and Bruno, of the New York fleet; a 
Captain Withem, schooner Governor Brooks of Salem; and Messrs. William 
A. Fanning, Fox and Smith (the latter from the Huntress) with ten men, 
pitched in to get the Huron's anchors up and the ship warped and moored 
again in a safe place. After six hours the arduous task, was completed. 
Captain Davis ended his entry for the day, thus : 

**. . . hope to see our Schooner soon as she has had Bad weather." 

Two days later, January 22, the Cecilia arrived. Such were the vagaries of 
South Shetland weather that a flat calm fell as Captain Burdick headed up 
Yankee Sound and he was forced to get a whaleboat out ahead to tow the 
shallop into the harbor. 


The American and British Sealers Clash 

An Impending Pitched Battle 

It was the custom for Captains Davis and Burdick on occasion to send a whale- 
boat up to the west end of Yankee Sound to hunt for seals. On January 24, 
the Huron's boatswain returned from a cruise of four days along the north 
shore of Livingston Island, west of Williams Point, to Shirreff's Cove. He 
had bad news — a clash with the English sealers — and only 52 skins.^^ Just before 
he came in, another American whaleboat reported similar trouble. Captain 
Burdick's log gives the details: 

"... a boat came in belonging to Captain Barnard brig Charity having 
ben rob[bjed of Eighty Skins by the English at Sheriff's Cape and Drove 
off the Beach 4 p.m. our Boat came in from a Cruce with 52 [skins] 
having Likewis ben Drove from the beach at Sheriff's Cape by the Eng- 
lish wher he said there was plenty of Seal." 

With the growing scarcity of seal, and the rookeries of Livingston Island 
the best in the Shetlands, it was inevitable that growing competition between 
British and American crews might lead to pitched battle. 

The New Englanders in Yankee Harbor were angry. Captain Burdick puts 
the situation as follows: 

". . . the Masters of all the vessels in this harbor being nine in number 
and all Americans being notified of the Same all repaired on Board Ship 
Huron, Capt. Davis to Consult what was to be done where we all 
agreed as one to muster all our men from our Several Camps and as one 
body to go on to said beach at Sheriff's Cape and to take Seal by fair 
means if we Could but at all Events to take them. So Ends." 

What a picture this conjures I Nine sealing masters gathered in the cabin 
of the Huron, the yellow light of the whale-oil light bringing out the grim 
lines of their weather-bronzed faces — young men all, despite their experiences, 
and determined men as well. They would rescue English mariners cast away on 
inhospitable shores but they refused to allow these same men, on equal footing, 
to intimidate them. 

Who were the nine shipmasters? The answer is contained in the pages of 
the three known existing logs — Captains Pendleton, Sheffield, Williams, and 
Dunbar, of the Stonington fleet; Captains Barnard and Bruno, of New York's 
fleet; Captain Davis of the Huron, New Haven; Captain Withem of the 



Governor Brooks, schooner-tender of the Nancy of Salem; and Captain Bur- 
dick of Nantucket.°° 

On the following morning, January 26, 1821, the log of the Huntress con- 
tinues the account: 

". . . At 6 A.M. Cap* Bruno of the Schooner Henry started in a boat 
with the first officer of the schooner Express with a Circular Letter being 
signed by all the masters to their respective officers at their camps to 
muster all their men save one man at each camp, and with their Boat to 
repair immediately under the guidance of Capt Bruno to a small Bay 
[Blythe Bay] not far from Sheriff's Cape, where Captain Davis and Cap- 
tain Barnard would meet them in the Shallop with the residue of the 
men from the harbor. At 8 p.m. Captain Davis and Capt. Barnard 
started in the Shallop with 5 boats and 33 men which would make in all 
(when they met at the place appointed) 120 men They would have to 
Land and by the best information we can git the English have but about 
80 men there. So Ends." 

The American sealers had planned their campaign well. If there was to be 
a fight, the Yankees were in a position to strike hard and with force. That the 
appointed commanders of the expedition were Captain Davis, Captain Barnard 
and Captain Bruno is a point well to record. It establishes acknowledged lead- 
ership. Little is known of either Davis or Bruno, but their voyages indicate 
men of superior ability. 

As for Captain Charles Barnard, his own book, "A Residence of Two Years 
in the Falkland Islands," which was printed in 1831, shows all too well his 
natural animosity for the British. In 1813, at the Falklands, he had rescued 
the officers and crew (including His Majesty's marines) of a British ship 
which had been cast away. With an amazing shift of circumstances, the British 
then stole Barnard's ship, the Nanina, and marooned him and four companions 
at New Island. After two years of an almost solitary existence, Barnard and 
his companions were rescued. Under such conditions, it is not difficult to imagine 
Barnard's frame of mind. 

On the afternoon of January 26, at 7 :00 o'clock, the Cecilia, with Davis and 
Barnard aboard (together with several mates from other vessels), and accom- 
panied by whaleboats and 33 men, started from Yankee Harbor. Just as the 
expedition got well up Yankee Sound, at noon on the next day, they spoke Cap- 
tain Robert Johnson, bound in for Yankee Harbor in his shallop, after having 
been a 22-day cruise to the south and west (more about this later). This ad- 
venturesome master of the Jane Maria promised to join the force of militant 
sealers, which then continued on its way. 

At 5 o'clock in the afternoon, Saturday, January 27, 1821, the expedition 
got out through the western entrance to Yankee Sound. Captain Davis wrote: 

". . . made the best of our way for Bligh's Harbour [Blythe Bay?] with 
two boats a head a Towing it being almost Calm at 7 p.m. came too an 



anchor in Bligh's Harbor in 3 fathoms . . . Ends with . , . cloudy un- 
pleasant Weather with Snow." 

While the Cecilia and the whaleboats waited for Captain Bruno's party to 
arrive, Captain Johnson came in with his shallop, ready to lend a helping hand. 
The log of the Huron continues Captain Davis' narrative : 

". . . then we got under way and stood to the South & Westward in com- 
pany for Sheriff's Cape at 11 p.m. Capt. Bruno came alongside in his boat 
and 1 ported that he had examined the Beaches round Sheriffs Cape 
and Saw but a very few Seal nothing to make an object to stop for. . . ." 

That was the end of the expedition. The undeclared war ended as suddenly 
as it began, and the American sealers returned to their respective vessels at 
Yankee Harbor. The Charity's crew probably accepted their defeat philosophi- 
cally. From other evidence they were only one of several camp crews which had 
to suffer a beating without recompense. A contemporary map of Livingston 
Island designates one section of the northwest coast as "Robbery Beach. "*^ 

In an English sealer's account of his experiences in the South Shetlands, 
"Narrative of . . . Thomas W. Smith," printed in Boston in 1844, there is an 
account of the London sealer Hetty and her crew's landing in Blythe Bay in 
1820 (probably November & December) and of being driven from certain 
sections by their own countrymen in the grim competition for the seal pelts. 
In one instance a fight with sealing clubs resulted in severe injury to several 

But Captain Davis was not wholly satisfied with the result. He did not return 
to Yankee Harbor with his companions. On the next day, he sent his first mate, 
Mr. Goddard, with a whaleboat and crew, ashore at Shirreff's Cape. This was 
the established base for the British sealers. The reconnoitering party found 
out why Captain Bruno had wisely advised not to proceed further with the 
attempt at force. Captain Davis states: 

". . . at 2 P.M. the Boat returned from Shore not being allowed to Land 
as the English had collected in numbers say from 60 to 75 men, all armed 
with Guns, Pistoles, & Swords and appeared in a hostile manner, Hoisted 
in the Boat and Proceeded on to the westward. . . . Capt. Johnson bore 
away for the North & East'd." 


Capt. Davis Makes an Historic Decision — 

The Exploratory Cruise of Captain Johns on 

The day before this incident, Captain Davis had considered certain alterna- 
tives. The situation in which he now found himself he tells best in his own laconic 
words : 

". , . Concluded to make the best of our way for our People that is sta- 
tioned on the South Beach, and then to go on a cruise to find new Lands, 
as the Seal is done here . . ." 

This was a tremendously important decision, as his subsequent entries in the 
Huron's logbook will show. The necessity for finding new rookeries was para- 
mount. With the end of the season in sight, it was mandatory that desperate 
measures be taken. The Stonington (Fanning) fleet had little to worry about 
as they had obtained full cargoes.''^ But the other vessels in Yankee Harbor 
were far behind in the number of skins obtained. As has been shown. Captain 
Davis' cruise to the northeast, along the South Shetland chain and then back 
to the west, had produced little or nothing. Both the north and south shores of 
Livingston had been worked to the ultimate near-extermination of the seal. 

In equal measure, the New York captains were well aware of the situation. 
That is why Captain Robert Johnson had made his own exploratory cruise to 
the south. This extraordinary cruise is of historic importance and represents 
something more than just another of those contributions made by American 
sealers. When he met the Davis-Barnard expedition at the entrance to Yankee 
Sound, on January 27, 1821, Captain Johnson had just returned from this 
famous cruise. Captain Davis states that Captain Johnson reported: 

". . . having been gone 20 days on a cruise to the South and Westward 
to look for Seal found Plenty of Land in that Direction, but no Seal . . ." 

The log of the Huntress (January 27, 1821) gives further details: 

". . . Captain Johnson came in in Shallop from a cruce of 22 days, said 
he had ben to the Lat. 66° South and the Long, of 70° West and still 
found what [he] took to be Land but appeared to be nothing but Sollid 
Islands of Ice and Snow Whether he had found any Seal he did not in- 
form, nor otherwise Land, than to say ther was none so far south as he 
had ben." 

Captain Davis, therefore, decided to sail south and search for land himself — 



and possible new rookeries. This was not only of great importance to himself 
but an historic one in the history of Antarctic discovery. 

On the morning of Tuesday, January 30, 1821, Captain Davis sailed the 
Cecilia through Morton Strait — between Livingston and Snow islands (called 
Frezeland and President islands by the Americans) — and three hours later 
hove to off the camp of Mr. Philips, his second mate. A total of 258 skins was 
brought out to the shallop. The camp of his third mate, Mr. Ripley, brought 
out 219 skins, and the Cecilia was then sailed along shore to the camp of William 
Coleman, mate of the Huntress, who had 425 skins. 

After taking the skins aboard, Captain Davis steered to the south, into the 
unknown waters of the Antarctic seas below the South Shetland chain.^' 


"And South We Steered'''' — 

Coleridge^ The Ancient Mariner 

Captain Davis' logbook, on January 31, 1821, records: 

**. . . Middle part clear and Pleasant at Meridian our Latt was 63°-06' 
South at same time Mount Pisgo bore S W J^ W per compass, President 
Island NW by W, Deception Island NE and a new discovered Island S by 
W 5^ W At p M discovered Land bearing from East by N to W by S. 
Ends with moderate breeze and clear weather." 



Af onl Pofuf Dipnulon 

(From: "Deuxieme Expedition Antartique Francais" — Charcot) 

Deception Island from the west, probably 

as seen by Captain John Davis 

on January 31 , 1821 




I. Jameson ou Low 


PieFotkr PicLUeo 
I. Smith 


(From: "Deuxieme Expedition Antartique Francais" — Charcot) 

Smith (Mt. Pisgah) and Jameson (Low) Islands 

as probably seen by Captain John Davis 

February 1 , 1821 



From these cross bearings it is a simple matter to find Captain Davis' posi- 
tion on the chart. The clearness of the atmosphere in the Antarctic has been 
testified to by eminent explorers. Here, such long-range observation tends to 
shorten distances, and it is more than a conjecture to believe that the "Land" 
Captain Davis saw east by north to west by south was the high snow-crowned 
coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, some 40 miles away. 

In checking the latitude of 63° 06' south, as given by Davis, it is not pos- 
sible to reconcile all his compass bearings with those of a modern chart. But 
this is not at all strange. Compass variation in this part of the Antarctic in 
1821 was about 25° east. Even by allowing for this variation, his position does 
not fit his recorded latitude, and it is fair to assume he underestimated his dis- 
tances. It must be remembered that this was the summer season in the Antarctic, 
and the sun never actually stayed under the horizon at night so that the hours of 
daylight continued into the so-called night period. This made night sailing 
possible in clear weather. 

But the master of the Cecilia did not end his cruise here. There were more 
impressive observations to record. Continuing to the south and west, he ap- 
proached the south coast of Smith Island (called by the Americans Mount 
Pisgah) and at noonday on February 1, 1821, put a boat crew ashore there to 
hunt for seals.*'^ But they found that an English brig from Botany Bay (Aus- 
tralia) had established camps here, having seventeen men ashore and two 

Leaving Smith Island, Captain Davis steered southeast for a "low Island" 
which he had recorded as sighting the preceding morning as "a new discovered 
Island." This was Jameson or, as the sealers called it. Low Island which he 
reached at 3 o'clock that afternoon, February 2. The wind being fair, and 
other weather conditions ideal, both boats were landed on the north side and 200 
seals were killed. The next day, 422 skins were added, with Messrs. Goddard, 
Philips and Smith handling the crews. On February 4 and 5 the boats took 
150 more. Captain Davis took a noon sight and figured his latitude as 63°25' 
south, about 5' out of the present recording. 

The sealers spent February 6 examining further the beaches of Low Island, 
during which time they took 109 more sealskins. But they did not linger 
further. At 7 :00 o'clock that evening the Cecilia was headed for an island 
bearing southeast per compass. This was Hoseason Island, some twenty miles 
away, the gateway to de Gerlache Strait and Hughes Bay. In the light of 
documentary history, this was the first vessel known to have pursued a course 
into this unknown corner of the Antarctic world."^ 


First Landing on the Antarctic Continent 

From approximately 7:45 p.m. on the evening of February 6, 1821, until 10 
o'clock the following morning, Captain Davis sailed the Cecilia on a course 
which took him to the shores of the Antarctic Continent. His report of this 
historic cruise is contained in the log of the Huron and is quoted in full: 
"Wednesday 7th February 1821 

"Commences with open Cloudy Weather and Light winds a standing 
for a Large Body of Land in that direction SE at 10 a.m. close in with 
it, out Boat and Sent her on Shore to look for Seal at 11 a.m. the Boat 
returned but found no signs of Seal at noon our Latitude was 64° 01' 
South. Stood up a Large Bay, the Land high and covered intirely with 
Snow the wind comming Round to the north'd & Eastward with Thick 
weather. Tacked Ship and headed off Shore, at 4 p.m. fresh Gale and 
Thick weather with Snow. Reefed the main Sail and took the Bonnet 
off the fore Sail. Ends with Strong Gales at ENE with Cloudy un- 
pleasant weather attended with Snow and a heavy Sea. Concluded 
to make the Best of our way for the Ship. I think this Southern Land 
to be a Continent." 

So far as firsthand, documentary accounts are concerned this is the first re- 
corded landing on shores in this region of the Antarctic Peninsula. From the 
evidence the shores were those of the Continent itself. Captain Davis, there- 
fore, becomes an important explorer. It is to this unknown American sealer 
that our country owes a long-delayed debt of honor. His logbook, so miracu- 
lously saved, presents stirring evidence of a superior shipmaster worthy of this 

Like his contemporaries, he is an unheralded mariner. These American 
sealers provided claims of explorations and discovery in the South Shetland 
and Antarctic Peninsula area of which we, as fellow Americans, may well be 
proud. Captain Robert Johnson's cruise to ^d"" south was probably down this 
coast, and Captain Shefl^eld's mate, Daniel Clark, of the Hersilia, also wrote 
of American sealers cruising to the shores of the Antarctic Peninsula, as will 
be noted later in the Appendix. 

Where did Captain Davis land his men on that memorable Wednesday morn- 
ing, February 7, 1821? A retracing of the Cecilia's course from Low Island 
reveals a number of interesting possibilities. 

After leaving Low Island at about 7 :45 on the evening of February 6, the 
Cecilia stood southeast by compass for another island in that direction. This 
course, if followed, would have taken her to Hoseason Island. 



ARCHIPEL DE PALMER (Vus prise db l'Ilb Low) 

Tnmer HUl Bale de Hughes /. Hoseason Cap Possession t. Liige 

J uwcr » ^^^^ ^^ Banco Dilroit de Gerlache 

(From: "Deuxieme Expedition Antartique Francais" — Charcot, 1908-1910) 

Captain John Davis, sailing southeast from Low Island, sailed towards Hughes 

Bay between Hoseason and Liege Islands, approaching the "Large Body of 

Land" which lay ahead — the Antarctic Continent Peninsula 

But Captain Davis did not record that next landfall as an island. As he ap- 
proached the coast, he saw before him, rising from the sea a "Large Body of 
Land in that direction SE." The obvious fact that, on a southeasterly course, 
this had kept the Cecilia going off to leeward, makes it quite certain that the 
little schooner went directly past Hoseason Island toward the recorded: "Large 
body of Land in that direction SE. . . ." After passing to the east of Hoseason 
Captain Davis sailed between Liege and Intercurrence islands. Although Ho- 
season is 1,900 feet high, it was not Davis' "Large Body of Land," as no 
mariner would so record such a landfall later as a continent — it was the Ant- 
arctic Peninsula which he saw. At 10:00 o'clock he noted that he was "close 
in with it." Now he was under the rising heights of the Continent itself, most 
probably in the vicinity of Cape Charles (Cape Sterneck). 

The historic moment of the landing was between 10:00 and 10:30 o'clock 
that morning: "Out Boat and sent her on shore to look for Seal."^^ This was 
his main purpose, not recording the lay of the land, taking soundings or noting 
shore characteristics. The whaleboat returned at 11:00 o'clock and no seals 
were found. Who were the men taking part in this historic landing? This will 
probably never be known. Mate Samuel Goddard of the Huron was on board 
the shallop. As he and his second mate, Charles Philips, with second mate Smith 
of the Huntress had gone ashore exploring Low Island, it is very probable 
that those same officers and a boat's crew took part in this landing. Thus, they 
presumably were the first human beings to step on the Antarctic Continent. 


"I Think This Southern Land 
to Be a Continent'''' 

This section of the coast line has been the subject for numerous controversies. 
Some cartographers name it the Palmer Coast, others Graham Land.°^ The 
British sealer Sprightly was here in 1824 under Captain Hughes, whose name 
was given to the bay.^^ Hughes apparently charted the bay which appeared on 
Laurie's 1828 maps, and the island of Hoseason was named for the Sprightly' s 
mate, James Hoseason. It is thought Hoseason sailed first with Smith in the 
Williams. On January 5, 1829, H.M.S. Chanticleer under Captain Henry Foster, 
a distinguished British scientist, made a landfall here and Foster went ashore 
at a place called Cape Possession.^^ An American sealer named Captain William 
H. Smiley claimed to have been in this Hughes Bay area in 1842 in the Ohio 
of Newport, R.V 

The French explorer, Admiral Dumont D'Urville, in the Astrolabe, is 
credited with establishing the northeastern end of Orleans Channel, ^^ and some 
thirty years later (1873) Captain Dallman, the German, in the Gronland is 
said to have located the southwestern part of Orleans Channel as it passed 
between Trinity Land and the Antarctic Continent, thus establishing Trinity 
Island as an island which he called "Palmer Land."'^^ But it was the Belgica, 
during the Antarctic Expedition of 1897-99, which established the existence 
of the strait named for its leader, de Gerlache, and explained so much of what 
American (and afterwards) British sealers had seen. This expedition con- 
clusively showed the "Hughes Bay" region was in reality a large bay where 
the waters of the southern end of the Orleans Channel met those of the northern 
extremity of the de Gerlache Strait." 

Captain Davis' laconic statement which completed his February 7 entry — 
"I think this Southern Land to be a Continent," definitely indicates his aware- 
ness of what he saw. His position has been proven by every Antarctic explorer 
who has since observed the coast in this area. The words of a member of the 
Belgica Expedition serve as a supplement to this entry from the logbook of 
the Huron. 

So descriptive are the words of a member of the Belgica' s officers, that they 
might have been written by Captain Davis years before. Cook, of the Belgica, 
wrote : 

"At 3 o'clock in the afternoon of the 23rd, (Jan. 1898) a curious white 
haze appeared upon the swollen skj-. A little later an imperfect outline of 



land rose into this haze. It extended as far as we could see to the east and 
the west. The top was everywhere veiled by a high mist, and this mist 
had within it a mysterious light, which is one of the most startling of 
all with polar effects. As we drew nearer, we noticed that the land was 
not as it at first appeared, an endless wall of ice, but rough, irregular and 
disconnected, though it was buried under a mantle of glacial ice, extend- 
ing to the water's edge. Here and there were large bays, and one directly 
over our bowsprit, was so wide that it offered us a temporary path south- 
ward. Now the maps were carefully studied that we might fix our posi- 
tion on paper, but in this effort we failed. 

"Over the starboard bow rose two beautiful headlands, mountains of 
moderate height. ... In front of these remarkable headlands there was 
a bay, and beyond a long series of mountains, clothed in the same sheet 
of perennial ice. Eastward there were a number of small islands, mostly 
free of ice, and beyond, low under the southeastern sky, was the dim 
outline of an extensive white country. We set our course somewhat east 
of south to examine the interruptions between the high mountainous land 
before us and the more even country eastward. . . . 

"During the few hours of the night we rested . . . and in the morning 
we found ourselves well into the bight (Hughes Inlet) which we entered. 
... At 5 o'clock the sun had already arisen over the snowy heights of 
the east and . . . our positions at the time was in the center of a wide 
waste of water almost twelve miles away from the nearest land . , . 
every projection seemed a continuous mass of impenetrable crystal 
solitude. . . ."^^ 

There can be no question as to Captain Davis' recognition of this great shore 
line, stretching in all its icy magnificence far into the snowy distances, with 
black, precipitous peaks showing above the frozen snow which held it captive. 
Having preceded in this place those other explorers, who so clearly described 
it three-quarters of a century later, the master of the Huron is the earliest 
mariner who we know to have recorded the exact location of this portion of the 
Antarctic Continent, and who was, in addition, responsible for the first recorded 
landing on these continental shores.'^" 


Further Observations 

And the Return of the Ship 

At 12 meridian (noon) on February 7, 1821, Captain Davis took a sight and 
figured his latitude as 64° 01' south. He had made an error of several minutes on 
his observation on January 31, and a similar error here would have placed him 
more to the north; on the other hand, he may have been further south. He now 
headed the Cecilia "up a Large Bay, the Land high and covered intirely with 
snow. . . ."; the weather now became foggy and the wind came around to the 
north and east. Davis tacked the schooner, standing offshore as the wind in- 
creased to a gale. 

The little exploring schooner Cecilia was in an uncomfortable position late 
in the afternoon on February 7. Captain Davis reefed the mainsail and noted 
"strong gales at ENE . . . attended with Snow and a heavy Sea." He "Concluded 
to make the Best of our way for the Ship." The fact that the Cecilia was in 
Hughes Bay all during this time definitely places her on the southwestern side of 
Cape Charles (Cape Sterneck), on the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, and 
east by north of Two Hummocks Island. The east-northeast gale gave him a 
chance to work to the west, and out of danger. 

This becomes clearer by following the course which Captain Davis set during 
the next twenty-four hours. His entry for February 8 (civil time) began at 
12 midnight and tells of the schooner being under double-reefed sails, with a 
strong northeast gale and snow and a heavy sea. At 3 o'clock in the morning 
the gale moderated and the reefs were shaken out. At 8 o'clock (a.m.) it cleared 
away and Captain Davis got his first bearings. He reported them, thus: 

". . . we saw Castle Rock bearing NNW and the Middle of President 
[Snow] Island North ..." 

In order for the Cecilia to have been in this position she must have been to 
the southeast of Low Island and northwest of Hoseason Island. As Captain 
Davis did not then record sighting it, the hazy weather must have shut in from 
the west. He does mention Low Island some time later the same day. "At 9 
A.M. the wind backned to the ENE" (the log records) and increased to a strong 
gale: "At Meridian Strong gales heavy Sea and Thick Snow." 

The course of the Cecilia could not have been much to the east and north 
due to the wind direction. At 8 p.m. (February 8), the weather clearing, and 



the wind becoming westerly, Captain Davis got some more observations which 
help establish his exact position. He noted: 

". . . Deception Island bore north, Land bearing from SSW to E by N, 
Low Island W by S, President Island NW [by] N and Bluff Point SE 
by E, off of which lays a number of Single rocks at the distance of 8 to 10 
miles. Ends with light winds from the north and westward. On 
Bonnets and out reefs, making the best of our way for the Ship." 

At this time he was approximately in latitude 63° 18' south and longitude 
61°03' west. Trinity Island was the nearest island geographically. Austin Rocks 
(the single rocks) were off his weather beam, and Bluff Point on Trinity Island 
bore SE by E. Deception Island was due north, allowing for compass variation 
of 25' easterly. 

BAIE D£ HUGHES (Vub prise ues Rocu&rs Austin) 

I. des Deux Hummocks D* de Gerlache I. Brabant I. Ltige I. Hoseason 

(From: "Deuxierae Expedition Antartique Francais" — Charcot, 1908-1910) 

In returning from the cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula, Captain Davis recorded 

sighting the Continent again from the same vantage point of Austin Rocks from 

which Charcot observed it some ninety years afterward 

These bearings help to establish not only the Cecilia's position but the further 
sighting of the Antarctic Peninsula as well, this latter from south-southwest 
to east by north. As this fact also supports a similar observation made by 
Captain Burdick of the Huntress a few days later, it is of considerable im- 
portance to note it here. 

When conditions were right for such observations, the clarity of the atmos- 
phere in these latitudes has been amply aflirmed by several Antarctic explorers. 
Such long-range sightings, however, tend to shorten distances. Thus, the 
"Land" which Captain Davis reported bearing from "S.S.W. to E. by N.," 
was the high mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula now called Palmer Land, 
some thirty miles away at this point. 

During the next twelve hours the Cecilia clawed her way to the north, 
battling a northeast breeze which alternated between moderate and fresh. It 
was not until 2 o'clock in the afternoon on February 9 that she got into the 
lee of Deception Island which at 8 o'clock the previous evening (some 18 
hours before) had been due north of her. The weather became foggy and un- 
pleasant and it was rainy when Captain Davis closed his log on that day. The 



skipper and his crew continued trying to get the schooner to the eastward. The 
next morning the wind came out from the "South and westward" enabling them 
to get all sail on and take advantage of the fair breeze, and at 6:30 that morn- 
ing they got in past Frezeland Point on Livingston Island and entered Yankee 
Sound. At 9 Captain Davis sailed the Cecilia safely into Yankee Harbor, where 
they "got along side the Ship, found all well." On board the Cecilia were 1,670 
skins, 440 of which were "for schooner Huntress.'' Captain Davis also re- 
ported that, during the shallop's absence, the brig Aurora, Captain Macy, had 
arrived at Yankee Harbor, joining the other members of Captain Johnson's 
New York fleet, already anchored here with the Stonington and Nantucket 


Captain Bur dick Attends an Auction 
and Meets a Discoverer 

During the ten days' absence of Cecilia on her exploratory cruise, Captain 
Burdick of the Huntress had experienced a number of more than usual inci- 
dents. He duly recorded them all. On January 28, he wrote: 

". . . the Stonington shallop {^Hero, Capt. Palmer] came in from a 
Cruce to the northward and Eastward of 14 days and Reported they 
had found no seal. . . ." 

This, then, disposed of one direction where seals had formerly been found. 
As there were vessels based at Harmony Cove and Potters Cove, on King 
George Island, northeast of Yankee Harbor, the seals in this part of the South 
Shetland chain had been hunted to almost complete extermination. 

Two days later Captain Burdick went up Yankee Sound with Captain Bar- 
nard, of the Charity, in his shallop to Clothier Harbor, on the north shore of 
Greenwich Island, where he attended an auction of goods from the wrecked 
Clothier. His report of this event is both interesting and important. Leaving 
Yankee Harbor at 10:00 A.M., they arrived at Clothier Harbor at 4 that 

Captain Burdick wrote on the first day of February 1821 : 

*'. . . This was the Vendue and things sold very high . . . bought nothing 
but the ship's Bell and armorer's Bellows." 

One can visualize the scene. The several sealing masters gathered at the 
scene of the wreck, examining the salvaged stuff on the beach, calmly bidding 
on something from the wrecked vessel which they wanted, against the wild 
backdrop of the desolate shore of Greenwich Island, with its rocky heights 
showing black above the white covering of the perpetual snow and ice, bleak 
and cold. 

There was no mention of the gloomy prospect of the wreck itself or of the 
sealers' sympathy for Captain Clark, master of the wrecked Clothier. Life was 
rough and hard, and such misfortunes were taken with the same philosophic 
acceptance as was success or a broken voyage. 

But, while in attendance at the "vendue," Captain Burdick met some famous 
sealers. First, was Captain Jonathan Winship, of Boston, in the ship O'Cain.'^^ 
Winship was one of the most successful American sealers, a "Nor'westman" of 
note, and he had arrived at the South Shetlands about the same time as the 



Huntress, reporting a total of 7,000 skins. There were 40 men on the O'Ca'tn 
with Captain Winship. The name of his shallop is not yet known. Another seal- 
ing master mentioned was "Captain Low in a large ship from Salem, with a 
small Hemordite Brig as tender, and 60 men, arrived about the same time had 
about 10,000 skins." Another vessel mentioned was the brig Julian, Captain 

But the most important portion of Captain Burdick's entry of February 1, 
1821, was contained in his last sentence: 

". . . Likewise saw Captain Smith, the man that Discovered this Land 
first. He had two vessels and 60 men, had got 45,000 skins. Latter 
part strong gales. So ends." 

It was two years before to the month that Captain William Smith had first 
"discovered this Land" in the brig Williams, and it was just a year before that 
he had sailed his brig, on a return voyage, under the commission of Captain 
Shirreff of the Royal Navy, with Lieutenant Edward Bransfield aboard. Now, 
he was back on a straight sealing voyage. 

Here was an opportunity for a "gam" of which Captain Burdick must have 
taken full advantage. The extent of the "Land," the existence of possible new 
rookeries, and, of course, the exchange of opinion on the prospect of the com- 
plete extermination of the seal were the natural topics. The sealing masters 
all knew the imminent danger of this latter development in their slaughter of 
the seals. The ships in Clothier Harbor alone had accounted for nearly 100,000 
skins. '^^ 

Captain Burdick returned to Yankee Harbor on board the Stonington shallop 
— the Hero, Captain Palmer — and they arrived back at 10 :00 p.m. on February 
3. The next day, he reported the schooner Freegift, Captain Dunbar, of Ston- 
ington, had left Yankee Harbor for North America, the first of the Fanning- 
Stonington fleet to sail.'^^ 

On February 5 and 6, 1821, the log of the Huntress recorded "moderate 
breezes south-southeast and pleasant wether." At this time the Cecilia was 
busily engaged in sealing at Low Island; the Stonington sloop Hero had re- 
sumed her cruising alongshore to the camp sites on the south beaches of Liv- 
ingston Island; Captain Barnard in the Charity of New York and Captain 
Upton in the Nancy of Salem, were getting skins at Greenwich and Roberts 
islands, and Captain Winship in the O'Cain of Boston and Captain Ray of 
the Harmony of Nantucket were getting skins at Nelson's and King George 
islands, completing their cargoes preparatory to sailing for home. 


The Russian Admiral 
Meets the Yankee Captain 

While the American and British sealers were busily working out of their re- 
spective camps on Livingston Island, preparatory to the arrival of their 
respective tenders, two strange craft were coming up to the parallel of the 
South Shetlands. These vessels were the frigate Vostok, commanded by Ad- 
miral Fabian von Bellingshausen, and her consort, the ship Mirni, under Lieu- 
tenant Lazareff, which comprised a Russian Polar Exploring Expedition dis- 
patched in July, 1819, by Emperor Alexander L'^^ 

Bellingshausen had made a notable voyage. He had crossed the Antarctic 
circle several times, cruised leisurely through tropical archipelagoes during the 
southern winter, and then reached Sydney, Australia, in September, 1819. Here, 
the Russians learned of the discovery of the South Shetlands by Smith. *° Sail- 
ing from Sydney on November 11, 1820, the two exploring vessels crossed the 
Antarctic circle south of New Zealand, in lat. 60°, on December 7 at 163° east 
longitude. They then cruised south of 60° for the unprecedented distance of 
145 degrees of longitude during a two months' period. ^^ 

Meeting the Antarctic ice pack they sailed along it to the east. Had they 
turned southwest they might have anticipated the discoveries of Wilkes and 
Ross by 20 years. Sighting the magnificent bergs, they detoured to the north 
and reached the open sea. On Christmas Day, 1820, they recorded 244 ice- 
bergs in sight. 

On January 11, 1821, Bellingshausen crossed the Antarctic circle for the fifth 
time at 120° west longitude, reaching 67°50' south latitude. Here the pack 
again presented too formidable a front to face and the two warships had to 
turn north again for a time, then once again penetrated the Antarctic to 69° 

On January 27, 1821, Captain Robert Johnson, the American sealer, re- 
turned to Yankee Harbor, after a cruise to the south of 22 days, and reported 
having sailed as far as 66° south, on the parallel 70° of longitude, sighting 
land but, upon approaching it, had found no seals. ^^ 

Five days after Johnson's return to Yankee Harbor, February 3 (January 22 
on the Russian calendar), in latitude 69° south, Bellingshausen sighted the 
black mountain tops of an island, rising abruptly from the sea at a distance of 
some twenty miles. This land was the inaccessible outpost of Antarctica, 
and was named Peter I Island. It was the southernmost land ever discovered 



at this time. Evidence of other land was seen by the seabirds and the dis- 
coloration of the water and the Admiral wrote ". . . the land must come."®* 

Two days later, another island was discovered to the north, which was called 
Alexander I Island. This is in latitude 68° 43' south, longitude 73° 10' west, 
and although they were not able to approach nearer than forty miles away, 
the weather was so clear that the mountain tops were distinctly observed. ^^ It 
was recorded as the finest day they had experienced in the Antarctic. But the 
pressure of the ice pack forced them away and they never approached nearer 
than forty miles to land sighted, and they headed for the northeast. 

It was on February 5, 1821, at 7:00 in the morning that Bellingshausen 
caught his first glimpse of the South Shetlands, sighting Smith Island (Mt. 
Pisgah) from the west. At 12 noon, the Vostok and the Mirni rounded the 
southwestern shores of Smith Island, coasted it to the northeast, observed 
Boyd Strait, which they estimated at twenty miles wide. Snow (President) 
Island was sighted at 10:00 p.m., which they described as rising in the center 
". . . and is surrounded on almost every side by rocks showing above the 
water."®® Darkness then came on and the vessels were headed southeast until 
2 :00 A.M. on February 6, when they turned northwest and again approached 
Snow Island. 

Bellingshausen's "Voyages" takes up the account: 

". . . At this time [3:00 a.m.] we were at the entrance of a strait, 3j^ 
miles wide, running in the direction WNW [Morton Strait]. It was 
doubtful whether a ship could pass through this strait [Hell's Gate] 
because of the quantity of submerged rocks and the breakers. In front 
of this low-lying shore [southwest coast of Livingston Island] we saw 
8 British and American sealing vessels at anchor near the northeast 
shore of the strait. Proceeding farther along the southern shore to the 
east-southeast, I soon saw to starboard of our course a high island, with 
steep cliffs and covered with clouds. [Deception Island] 62° 58' south 
latitude and 60° 55' west longitude . . . circumference of 20 miles, 
separated from the high rocky headlands opposite by a strait, 11 miles 

'At 10 o'clock, we entered the strait and encountered a small Ameri- 
can sealing boat. . . . Soon after Mr. Palmer arrived in our boat and 
informed us that he had been here for four months, sealing in partnership 
with three American ships. They were engaged in killing and skinning 
seals, whose numbers were perceptibly diminishing. There were as many 
as eighteen vessels about at various points, and not infrequently differ- 
ences arose amongst the sealers, but so far it had not yet come to a fight. 
Mr. Palmer told me . . . Capt. Smith, the discoverer of the South Shet- 
lands was on the brig JVilliam, that he had succeeded in killing as many 
as 60,000 seals. . . ."®^ 

The several attempts by American historians to elaborate this meeting be- 
tween the Russian Admiral and the Yankee Captain have unfortunately de- 
stroyed the perspective of the true picture. Had Captain Palmer told Admiral 



Bellingshausen that he had discovered land to the south, as has been claimed, 
it is fair to expect Bellingshausen to not only record such an important fact 
but to have turned south himself to seek it. The Russian had already penetrated 
the Antarctic circle several times searching for land and had purposely come 
to the South Shetlands to ascertain whether or not these islands had any con- 
nection with a southern continent. He would never have departed without in- 
vestigating any information such as historians claim Captain Palmer gave him. 

Bellingshausen's account of his voyage to the South Shetlands is far more 
complete in detail and date and position than most contemporary accounts. 
His chart of the islands, with other Russian names, is not "rather crudely mapped 
from a distance," as the late Professor William H. Hobbs claimed, but an 
excellent piece of work.^^ 

Captain Palmer spent no longer than three quarters of an hour aboard the 
Vostok, then returned to the Hero}^ By noon, Bellingshausen's two vessels 
were twelve miles further east, proceeding alongshore, and at 1 :30 o'clock his 
journal records him off the mouth of Yankee Sound. He states: "The shore we 
had held from 4 o'clock in the morning up to this time proved to be an island, 
41 miles long, lying E by N ^^ E. . . ."^'^ This, of course, was Livingston Island. 

From all the evidence, it would appear that Palmer's log of the Hero, now 
in the Library of Congress, is in some respects strangely incomplete. This 
is further shown by the fact that there is no mention of his meeting with Bel- 
lingshausen and for several days in mid-February, 1821, only one line is entered 
each day, and no entries at all from February 19 to February 22.^^ 

It is a great pity that only this incomplete record of the Fanning fleet's ac- 
tivities of the 1820-21 season can be found. It was Captain Benjamin Pendle- 
ton, the commander of the fleet, to whom Edmund Fanning attributes the first 
sighting of the Antarctic Continent from the mountains of Deception Island.^^ 
But Fanning, writing in his later years, obviously confused his recollections of 
the fleet's 1820-21 and 1821-22 voyages to the South Shetlands. It was during 
the 1821-22 season that the Fanning fleet was at Deception Island, using it 
as a base. 


Captain Bur dick Recognizes Land 

Which He Also "Supposes to Be a Continent 

When the shallop Cecilia returned to Yankee Harbor early Saturday morning, 
February 10, 1821, Captain Davis had 1,720 skins on board to show for his 
cruise of January 30 through February 9, and 454 of this total was transferred 
to Captain Burdick and the Huntress^^ That the two shipmasters discussed 
in detail the possibility of getting more seals on Low Island is obvious, because, 
two days later, on February 12, the Cecilia again left the anchorage and, under 
Captain Burdick, sailed for the newly-found rookeries.''^ 

The Nantucket man recorded, ". . . started in the Shallop on a cruce to the 
southward and westward. Commences Shallop account . . . trying to get to 
Southard." The light airs from the west held him up and it was not until 7 A.M. 
on February 13 that he reached first mate Coleman's stand. Then it came on 
to blow heavily from the northeast, attended with snow, and he was forced to 
anchor as no boat could reach the shore due to the "rufness of the whether." 
At 2:00 in the afternoon first mate Coleman and second mate Burdick of the 
Huntress came aboard with 471 skins. The little shallop then got under way 
and stood to the southward. 

On board the Cecilia at this time were Captain Burdick and his two mates 
from the Huntress, with mate Goddard, second mate Philips, Dr. Russell of 
the Huron and at least seventeen men from the Huron and the Huntress.^^ The 
shallop left the south shores of Livingston Island on Wednesday, February 
14, at 8 P.n. On the following day, Captain Burdick made this entry in his log: 

"Begins with Light airs and variable with calm pleasant wether. At 
Meridian Lat. by obs. 63° 17' S. President [Snow] Island Bearing 
North 3 Leagues, Mount Pisco [Smith Island] S W by W dist. 7 
leagues, the Peak of Frezeland [Livingston] NE J^ E 11 Leagues, De- 
ception Island N E by N 8 Leagues and a small Low Island, SSW 6 
Leagues to which I am bound and Land from South to E S E which 
I suppose to be a Continent Later part fresh breze at North at 6 p.m. 
came to anchor under Low Island among a parcel of rocks. Sent the 
Boat on Shore. She returned with 22 Seal. So Ends these 24 hours." 

From the time she left Livingston Island's south beach at 8 o'clock the pre- 
vious night, until Captain Burdick made his position to be 63° 17' south latitude 
at 12 meridian on February 15, the Cecilia had sailed a course almost due 
south. The cross bearings at this time of day place the little shallop equidistant 



between Smith (Mt. Pisgah) and Deception Island and on a true north and 
south line between Snow (President) Island and Low Island. 

That his compass bearings and observed latitude of 63°17' south cannot be 
reconciled does not constitute an unusual situation. Compass variation being 
25° east of north helps to justify some of the positions, but not all of them. But 
this is not strange, considering the type of compass, the pitching deck of the 
little shallop, and the difficulty in getting an observation. 

It must also be remembered that in these high latitudes distances are often 
underestimated when atmospheric conditions are right. This explains why 
Mt. Barnard (the peak of Frezeland on Livingston Island) was much farther 
off than Captain Burdick recorded, and that his compass bearings were awry 
in sighting Deception Island. 

A scientifically trained man who sailed in this area a few years later (1838) 
wrote : 

"When the winds have ceased to blow, and the ocean is at rest, nothing 
can exceed the beautiful clearness of the atmosphere in these elevated 
regions. The . . . snowy acclivity of the hills are distinctly visible for 
fifty or sixty miles."^^ 

A twentieth century geographer also notes that the mainland of Antarctica 
is plainly visible from this region at a distance of forty miles. 

In this case the Cecilia was less than about thirty miles from the Antarctic 
Peninsula, and the mountains rising beyond Trinity Land, running far to the 
south to east-southeast, were plainly visible. 

Three-quarters of a century later, as Frederick Cook's description has al- 
ready proven, the Belgica under de Gerlache followed the course of the Cecilia 
into the strait between Trinity Land and the island archipelago.^^ Of this 
voyage it is recorded, regarding the coast line of the Peninsula : 

". . . the east coast of the strait traversed by us is perfectly continuous, 
and that its contours display the characteristic features of a region of 
fiords. Toward the south this land . . . (Danco Coast) is connected 
with Graham Land, the northern extremity of which is likewise explored 
by us. Toward the north, on the contrary, the continental coast line 
was not traced by the expedition . . . But as the inland ice rises to a very 
considerable height east of Hughes Inlet, I have been led to believe that 
land must reach in that direction as far as Louis Philippe Land. It 
therefore seems likely that the coastline is continuous to that point . . . 
and that the 'New Greenland' of the first explorers of that region is not 
a phantasm . . . the mountains reach to the shore everywhere. . . ." 

This statement helps to verify the possible discoveries of Captain Robert 
Johnson (in January, 1821) ; the recorded discovery of the Continent by Cap- 
tain John Davis (February 7-8, 1821), and the sighting of it by Captain Chris- 
topher Burdick (February 14, 1821). It also substantiates the cruisings of the 
British sealer Sprightly during which Captain Edward Hughes in 1824 visited 
this area and called it Hughes Inlet, and his mate, James Hoseason, gave his 




name to the island which Captain Davis had sailed past three years before.^^ 
Oddly enough, the voyage of Captain John Biscoe, in the Tula, in 1832, 
reveals that he also approached closest to the mainland in the Hughes Bay 
area, which he describes as a deep bay, ". . . in which the water was so still that, 
could any seals have been found, the vessels could have easily loaded. . . ."°" 

This evidence supports Davis' log and refutes the claims that Hughes Bay 
never existed, that it was a myth invented by British cartographers.^"** Most 
important of all, of course, is the statement of Captain Davis in the log of the 
Huron: "I think this Southern Land to be a Continent," as he recognized the 
land mass of Antarctica. 

As another strong bit of evidence, there is a letter written by Captain Donald 
McKay, who was with Captain Johnson on his historic cruise of January 5 
through 27, 1821. This letter appears in Niles Register of five months later 
(June, 1821), dated among the Antarctic Islands "or thereabouts," latitude 
63° south, longitude 61° west, which states, in part: 

". . . Southward of this range of islands [the South Shetlands] at a 
distance of from fifty to eighty miles, lies a large body of land, yet but 
little known, and will probably so remain by reason of the danger and 
difficulty in approaching the shore, from the great quantity of floating ice 
with which it is surrounded. This is of the same description as that of the 
islands. . . ."101 

Captain Benjamin Morrell's description of this coast line of the Antarctic 
Peninsula also came from Captain McKay's account of the Johnson voyage, 
and Edmund Fanning's attempt to refute it is not in keeping with the latter's 

The Belgica expedition of 1897-99, already referred to, has a telling line 
in describing this coast around Hughes Bay: ". . . The Antarctic lands which 
we visited are very mountainous and the mountains reach to the shores every- 
where "i*** 

Daniel W. Clark, who was the first mate of the Hersilia, wrote from the 
South Shetlands under date of February 18, 1821 (the letter directed to the 
New Haven Journal's editor) as follows: 

". . . We have been as far south as 66 deg. and found land. How much 
farther the land extends I know not — it is entirely covered (except the 
low land and beaches were the seals come up) with snow and ice, at this 
season of the year which is the middle of the summer. . . ." 

This letter was re-printed in English and French papers and journals. The 
big question concerns the word "we." Did Clark mean the American sealers or 
all the sealers in the South Shetland Islands at that time? It would appear to 
refer to the American sealers in Yankee Harbor, and with the cruises of Cap- 
tain Johnson, Davis, Burdick and McKay offered in evidence there can be little 
doubt of the identity of the "we" in Mate Clark's important letter. Possibly 
the officers of all the sealing craft in Yankee Harbor knew the facts. 


Sealing at Low Island^ 

Then Return to Tankee Harbor 

Soon after Burdick recorded his sighting of the Continent, he approached the 
west coast of Low Island where he put ashore his boat crews. The logbook of 
the Huntress contains the story. He anchored the Cecilia "under Low Island 
among a parcel of rocks" and remained there until the following day when a 
westerly gale kicked up the anchorage and he shifted the shallop "round on 
the N E side and anchored at 8 p.m." By this time he had obtained 822 skins. 

On February 17, after two days at Low Island, the wind came around with 
the northeast "blowing a hard gale right into the harbor we lay in." Hoisting 
in the boat Burdick got under way and beat out of the harbor. "After clearing 
the Land double reefed the sail and stood to Northward. So Ends with hard 
gale and thick Snow." 

Several hours later, the Cecilia "made President (Snow) Island bearing 
N E, and stood close in with it and tacked off to Southward." The wind mod- 
erated and Captain Burdick recorded it "canting" to the south. At 4:00 that 
afternoon (February 18) he tacked and steered east-northeast, making Decep- 
tion Island at 8 o'clock that evening. His entry closes with "making the Best 
of our way for Yanky harbor." It was not until 1 o'clock the next afternoon 
that he reached the harbor, having been forced to tow the shallop in when 
the wind dropped off to nothing. Such were the vagaries of Antarctic weather 1 

At Yankee Harbor, Captain Burdick found that the brig Aurora, Captain 
Macy of New York, and the brig Nancy, Captain Upham of Salem, had joined 
the American fleet. ^°* 

Both the Huron's and Huntress' logs record an interesting cruise for the 
busy Cecilia which began on February 22, 1821. The Huntress log noted: 

"... At 10 A.M. the shallop started on a cruce to the Northward and East- 
ward with a boat's crew from the Brig Aurora and Capt. McCay for a 
Pilot to some Islands to the Northward and Eastward on which he had 
seen some Seal. . . ." 

This is supplemented by the Huron's log which states that twelve men from 
the Huron, six men from the Aurora and two men from the Huntress comprised 
the crew under Captain McKay.^""^ This cruise lasted two days, and Captain 
Burdick reports: 




". . . Shallop . . . worked in, Reported that off the N E part of this Land 
fell in with Capt Johnson's shallop from those Islands and he informed 
them that he had got all the Seal their was there. . . ." 

Again, the inimitable Captain Robert Johnson appears on the scene. His 
ability as a navigator and explorer would be clearly shown if his logbooks could 
ever be found. As it is, we must rely on the scattered statements made by his 
contemporaries, which give us an idea of the extent of his cruising. 


Stoningtori' s Sealers Leave for Home 
and Others Prepare to JLeave 

On February 22, all three surviving logs report the sailing of the Fanning- 
Stonington fleet from Yankee Harbor. Captain Burdick wrote: ". . .At 12 
meridian the four Stonington Vessels got under way and went out, three of 
them for the United States and the other round the Horn." Captain Davis 
recorded the "brigs Hersilia and Frederick, schooner Express and sloop Hero 
left this harbor, (at 10 A.M.), the first [Hersilia] bound round Cape Horn, 
the three latter for the United States." Captain Palmer in the Hero wrote: 

"at 2 A.M. entered Harmony Straits, [Nelson Strait] at 9 the S W 
point of O'Cain's Island [Nelson's] Bore E by S, 2 Leagues distant 
being 59° West Long. 62° S. Latd. from which I take a departure — the 
Express, Hersilia & Frederick in company. At 12 lost sight of 

The remainder of the fleet still sent out boat parties searching for seals while 
preparing their vessels for the homeward voyage or leaving the South Shet- 
lands. Captain Davis, on February 27, 1821, recorded "great quantity of 
Floating ice in the Harbour. ... a material alteration in the weather, feel 
afraid that Winter is about setting in. . . ." Fierce gales swept into Yankee 
Sound and battered the remaining vessels. On March 3 an easterly, with sleet 
and snow, started them all dragging their anchors and the Huron's master was 
obliged to veer ". . . away on the sheet cable to the bitter end and got a slip 
Buoy on it to be ready in case they were like to come afoul of us to slip and 
let the Ship drop to her S W anchor." The brigs Nancy and Jane Maria did 
get afoul of one another, and "got clear ... by cutting away their jib booms 
and spritsail yards. "^°^ 

Of this same gale. Captain Burdick wrote in his log: ". . . It Blew so hard 
that a man could hardly stand on the Deck. Let go the small anchor under 
foot and clinched the End around the mast, being moored with the other two." 
The Huntress dragged and brought up about a cable's length from the shore. ^°* 

Four days later the fleet was not so fortunate. During a violent storm, the 
Cecilia and Captain Johnson's shallop were both driven ashore, and the others 
narrowly missed a similar disaster. Captain Davis wrote: 

". . . observed the Shallop's colours hoisted in distress down yawl took 
lines and veered her away with two men to their assistance. The Boat 
was not able to get to them on account of Ice, but got near enough to 



understand that they had parted one cable and had dragged the other and 
was then striking the bottom. Ordered them to slip other cable and Let her 
go on the Beach as I thought She would receive less injury on Shore than 
she would in her present situation. Latter part a violent gale at East 
with thick weather attended with snow and Sleet. "^°^ 

The Cecilia sustained injury to her keel, aft, and rudder post and snapped 
off the rudder pintals "but her Bottom was not hurt." She was kedged and 
warped off the next day. 

Now the fleet began getting under way for a more friendly part of the 
world. Captain Davis, on March 5, had recorded "We are now seperated from 
the schooner Huntress the time of our agreement being up that we were to 
join crews." The Samuel of Nantucket, under Captain Inott, was a late arrival 
at the islands (January 1821), and had delivered a packet of letters from 
home to Captain Burdick on February 28, the ship then being anchored in 
Byers' Bay, west of Yankee Harbor. ^^° 

On March 9, the Jane Maria, Captain Johnson, left for the home port of 
New York, and on March 10, the Huntress and the Nancy got under way, the 
latter to sail for the Falklands to winter, and Captain Burdick intended "for 
Staten Land and the Coast of Patagonia. "^^^ 

Captain Burdick's final entry in the log of the Huntress at the South Shet- 
lands was on March 11, 1821 when he wrote : 

"First part light winds from the westward. At 7 p.m. Cape Huntress 
bore NE 2 Leagues from which I take my Departure, it being in Lat 
62° 18' South, Long. 59° West or thereabouts. . . ." 

This Cape is now called Harmony Point, being north and west of Harmony 
Cove, where Captain Burdick's fellow Nantucketer, Captain Ray, had made 
his headquarters during that sealing season. 

The Huron continued sealing along the nearby shores until March 14, when 
Captain Davis observed: ". . . Wish very much to get our People in, so as 
to leave this Country before we get Frozen in. . . ." During the next few days 
he got the Cecilia down along the camp sites on the south shore of Livingston 
Island and "got his People" back to Yankee Harbor and the ship. 

That the American sealing craft were remaining perilously late is shown 
by the account in the Huron's log. Gales became more frequent and on March 
21, 1821, the brig Aurora of New York was driven ashore after dragging her 
three anchors. Captain Davis sent twenty men to the assistance of Captain 
Macy, as did the other sealing masters. Their combined efforts got the brig 
off on the 24th but she was in a "bad condition to go to sea," wrote Captain 

On March 30, 1821, the fleet finally got under way from the South Shetlands. 
The log of the Huron records the departure, thus: 

". . . the wind being Light from the westward weighed anchor and beat 
out of the Harbour in company with the brigs Charity, Aurora, and 
schooner Henry, Captains Barnard, Macy and Bruno at 10 a.m. got out 



of the Harbour safe and stood down Sound. Sent a whaleboat and 
crew to assist in towing the Shallop [Cecilia] out at Half past 10 a.m. 
our Shallop got out in company with Captain Macy's shallop 1 1 a.m. 
being out of the Sound hove too to wait for our Schooner. Deception 
Rocks bearing NE by N 2 Leagues distance at Meridian [12 noon] she 
got down to us. Hoisted in the boat and made sail to the North and 
Eastward from 1 p.m., becalmed, then took the wind about W by S stood 
on till dark then wore Ship and stood to the South'd and Westward to 
dark to go through the straits tonight Thick weather." 

The sealing fleet stood off and on until daylight. In the morning, the Charity, 
Huron and Cecilia were still together, but found they had drifted to leeward 
of the pass or strait (Harmony Strait) and so they stood along the shore to 
the north-northeast, as Captain Davis stated, "to go round the Northern and 
Eastern end of this group of Islands." At 4:00 p.m. the Huron reached the 
eastern end of King George's Island, largest of the Shetland chain, and Cap- 
tain Davis wrote: 

"off NE end of these islands extends a reef of Rocks and Brakers more 
than 10 miles dist at 5 p.m. the east point of Hannah Island bore West 
10 miles dist., from which I take my dep. it being in Lat. 61° 52' and 
Long 58° West. Middle latter part cloudy weather with snow varia- 
tion 28° Easterly. Lattitude pr. obs. D R 60°43' S." 

And so, the Huron and her consort, the schooner Cecilia sailed away from 
the wintry coast of the South Shetlands after four months of hard work and 
adventure. They headed for the Falkland Islands, where they arrived on April 
9, 1821, but not before they had encountered a hurricane which stove In the 
Huron's larboard bulwarks and "knocked down" the schooner and tore away her 
boat and ripped to ribbons her foresail and fore-topsail. The storm scattered 
the fleet and It was two days before they again spoke each other. 

Arriving at New Island In the Falklands on April 10, 1821, the Huron and 
Cecilia went Into winter quarters. Among the sealing craft which were to spend 
the April to October period In the Falklands were the Charity, Henry and 
Aurora of New York; the Nancy, of Salem, and several other British and 
American craft. ^^^ 

The Huron and Cecilia were to spend succeeding months In the South Shet- 
lands during the 1821—22 season from November through February, and again 
partake In adventurous crulslngs. But Captain Davis confined his efforts at 
this time as much to sea elephant blubber as he did to seal pelts. The slaughter 
of the seal during the previous season had, as propheslzed, resulted In their 
almost total extinction. Never again would there be the rich harvest of pelts. 
And never again did the Cecilia turn her bluff bow southward Into the un- 
charted stretches of the Antarctic seas below the Shetlands. The weather was 
even worse than the preceding year, and the Ice conditions prevented such a 
dangerous journey. All of these factors led to Interesting developments which 
have no part In this account. 



America has much of which to be proud in the achievements of its mariners. 
The voyages of its sealing explorers ofFers as bright a page in this nation's 
maritime history as any other, for it was their almost obscure voyages which 
first pulled back the icy curtain of the south and revealed the unknown Con- 
tinent of Antarctica. 



Notes on Sources 
The South Shetland Islands 

1. Captain James Cook, A Voyage Toward the South Pole, and Round the JVorld, (Lon- 
don 1777), p. 231 

2. Captain William Smith, "Memorial to the Admiralty, Dec. 31, 1821" (P.R.O. Adm., 
in letters 5029: Pro. S. 498, 1821) 

3. Ibid. 

4. Ibid.; Lt. Commander R. T. Gould, "Charting of the South Shetlands," The Mari- 
ner's Mirror, Vol. XXVII, p. 212 

5. J. Miers, "Account of the Discovery of New South Shetland," Edinburgh Philosophi- 
cal Journal, Vol. Ill (1820), pp. 367-80 

6. Gould, op. cit., p. 214 

7. Miers, op. cit,, also Gould, op. cit., p. 214 

8. J. Robinson's letter to Dr. Samuel Mitchell, in Niles Register, Sept. 16, 1820, Vol. 
XIX, p. 43 

9. Gould, op. cit., p. 218 

10. John R. Spears, Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer, (New York, 1922), pp. 23-32 

11. Dr. Adam Young, "Notice of the Voyage of Edward Bransfield," Edinburgh Philo- 
sophical Journal, Vol. IV, April, 1821, pp. 345-348 

12. Records of the Custom House of New London, copied in 1939 by James E. Murray, 
W.P.A. field worker 

13. James Byers, Letter to Brig. Gen. Daniel Parker dated August 25, 1820, National 
Archives of the United States, Records of the Dept. of State, Miscellaneous Letters, 
August-October, 1820 

14. Captain Edmund Fanning, Voyages and Discoveries in the South Seas, (Salem, 1924), 
pp. 301-304, Marine Research Society edition, Salem, Mass. 

15. La Gaceta de Buenos Aires, March 1, 1820 

16. Byers, op. cit., August 25, 1820 

17. Ibid. 

18. Byers, op. cit., letter dated Sept. 4, 1820 

19. Ibid. 

20. Captain John Davis, logbook of the ship Huron, of New Haven; entry Aug. 1, 1821 

21. Marine Column, New London Gazette, May 25, 1820. Also Marine Column of 
New Bedford Mercury, May 27, 1820 

22. Thomas A. Stevens, "The First American Sealers in the Antarctic," May, 1954 

23. Marine Column, New London Gazette, Nov. 26, 1819 

24. Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror, Aug. 1820 

25. Ibid. 

26. Log of the schooner Huntress of Nantucket, Christopher Burdick, Master, entry for 
Feb. 28, 1821. 

27. Captain Charles H. Barnard, A Narrative of the Sufferings and Adventures, New 
York, 1829 

28. E. W. Hunter Christie, The Antarctic Problem, London, 1951, p. 82 

29. Jeremiah N. Reynolds, Address on the Subject of a Surveying and Exploring Expedi- 
tion, New York, 1836, p. 228 

30. New London Gazette, Marine Column, op. cit. 

31. Log of the sloop Hero, Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer, Manuscript Division, Library 
of Congress, entry for Nov. 14, 1820 



32. Prof. William H. Hobbs, The Discoverers of Antarctica Within the American Sector, 
etc. Philadelphia, 1939, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 

33. Log of the Hero, op. cit. 

34. Captain James Weddell, A Voyage Toward the South Pole, London, 1825 

35. Log of the Hero, op. cit., October 26, 1820 

36. Ibid., Nov. 12, 1820 

37. Logbook entry of the Huntress; Marine Column of the New Haven Register, March 
24, 1820 

38. Log of the Huntress, op. cit., Oct. 31, 1820 

39. Chart of West Falkland Island by Lieut. Thomas Edgar, R.N., London, 1831, pub- 
lished by Arrowsmith 

40. Log of the Huntress, op. cit., Nov. 11, 1820 

41. Ibid., Dec. 5, 1820 

42. Log of the Hero, op. cit., Dec. 6, 1820 

43. Ibid., Nov. 13, 1820 

44. Ibid., Nov. 22, 1820 

45. Col. Lawrence Martin, "Antarctica Discovered by a Connecticut Yankee, Captain 
Nathaniel Brown Palmer," in the Geographical Review, Vol. XXX, No. 4, Oct. 
1940, pp. 529-552; also Hobbs, op. cit., p. 16 

46. Log of the Hero, op. cit., Nov. 17, 1820 

47. Frank Debenham, Voyage of Capt Bellingshausen, The Hakluyt Society, Second 
Series, No. XCII, p. 426 

48. Log of Hero, op. cit. 

49. Young, op. cit., as copied by Hobbs, op. cit., p. 14 

50. Capt. Amasa Delano, Narrative of Voyages and Travels, (Boston, 1818), pp. 306-307 

51. Ibid. 

52. Weddell, op. cit., also Log of the Hero, op. cit., Oct. 20, 1820 

53. Log of the Huntress, op. cit., Dec. 20, 1820 

54. Martin, op. cit., p. 537 

55. Log of the Huntress, op. cit., Dec. 22, 1820 

56. Ibid., Dec. 25, 1820 

57. New Bedford Mercury, op. cit., June 15, 1821 

58. Log of the Huron, op cit., Jan. 20, 1821 

59. Log of the Huntress, op. cit., Jan. 24, 1821 

60. From entries in the logs of the Huron, Hero and Huntress 

61. Weddell, op. cit., chart op. p. 132 

62. Martin, op. cit., p. 537 

63. Log of the Huron, op. cit., Jan. 31, 1821 

64. Ibid., Feb. 1, 1821 

65. Ibid., Feb. 6, 1821 

66. Ibid., Feb. 7, 1821 

67. Hobbs, op. cit., p. 54 

68. Gould, op. cit., p. 239 

69. Hobbs, op. cit., p. 50 

70. Ibid., 61 

71. Admiral Dumont D'Urville, Voyage au Pole Sud et dans L'Oceanie sur les Corvettes 
U Astrolabe et la Zelee (Paris, 1841-45) 

72. Hobbs, op. cit., p. 63 



73. Henry Arctowski, "Voyage of the Belgica," Annual Report of Smithsonian Institute, 
1901, reprinted from Geographical Journal, (London), Oct. 1901 

74. Frederick A. Cook, Through the First Antarctic Night, New York, 1909, pp. 130-131 

75. Alexander O. Victor, "New Haveners in the Antarctic," a paper read before a regular 
meeting of the New Haven Colony Historical Society, Feb. 16, 1953 

76. Log of the Huntress, Feb. 1, 1821 

77. Ibid. 

78. Ibid., Feb. 4, 1821 

79. Frank Debenham's translation "The Voyage of Captain Bellingshausen in the Ant- 
arctic Sea, 1819-21" The Hakluyt Society, (London, 1945), Second Series, No. 

80. Ibid., p. 421 

81. Ibid. 

82. Ibid., p. 409 

83. Log of the Huntress, Jan. 27, 1821 

84. Debenham's Bellingshausen, op. cit., p. 410 

85. Ibid., p. 419 

86. Ibid., p. 424 

87. Ibid., p. 425 

88. Hobbs, op. cit., p. 20 

89. Debenham's Bellingshausen, op. cit., p. 425 

90. Ibid., p. 426 

91. Log of the Hero, op. cit. 

92. Fanning, op. cit., p. 306 

93. Log of the Huntress, op. cit., Feb. 10, 1821 

94. Ibid., Feb. 12, 1821 

95. Ibid., Feb. 13, 1821 

96. Fanning, op. cit. (New York edition, 1833) quoting Dr. James Eights, naturalist for 
the Seraph-Annaivan voyage of 1829-31, p. 478. Also Eights' "Remarks on New 
South Shetlands," Transactions Allang Institute, Vol. II, (July 20, 1833), pp. 58-69 

97. Arctowski, op. cit. 

98. Gould, op. cit., p. 239 

99. Hugh R. Mill, The Siege of the South Pole, London, 1905, p. 162, also Hobbs, op. 
cit., pp. 54-55 

100. Hobbs, op. cit., pp. 46-50 

101. Niles Register, June 9, 1821, Vol. XX, p. 237 

102. Fanning, op. cit., (1925 edition), p. 308 footnote 

103. Arctowski, op. cit. 

104. Log of the Huntress, op. cit., Feb. 19, 1821 

105. Log of the Huron, op. cit., Feb. 22, 1821 

106. Log of the Hero, op. cit., Feb. 22, 1821 

107. Log of the Huron, op. cit., March 3, 1821 

108. Log of the Huntress, op. cit., March 3, 1821 

109. Log of the Huron, op cit., March 7, 1821 

110. Log of the Huntress, op. cit., Feb. 28, 1821 

111. Log of the Huron, op. cit., March 10, 1821 

112. Ibid., April to October, 1821 



1. The Beginnings of American Sealing — Trade with China 

Soon after Captain James Cook returned (1775) to Britain with news of the seals at 
South Georgia, a number of expeditions were planned by the British but were abandoned 
because of the war. In 1785, however, two vessels were fitted out at London ". . . under the 
liberty of the British East India Company, but by private adventure," William Rotch wrote 
from England to Nantucket. They intended to sail "to that part of America where Captain 
Cook had obtained the skins, (I believe it was near California but cannot fully recollect) 
that they fetched so high a price in China; some of his officers are going in the ships . . . 
Skins are a very fine, delicate quality. ... I intend to inform myself better in this respect 
& let you know." 

William Rotch had read Cook's journals and found the furs were sea otters, valued in 
China "at the enormous price of $100 per skin," and were obtained in "North Latitude 
56° on the northwest coast of America." Rotch's brother, Francis Rotch, had been to the 
Falkland Islands and seen the quantity of seals there. He proposed getting some of the skins 
and trading for them. 

An authority on the sealing trade, A. Howard Clark, unwittingly was the originator 
of an error which several historians have since perpetuated. As part of his report, he in- 
cluded a portion of the journal of the ship Neptune of New Haven, which sailed on a seal- 
ing voyage in 1796. On board the ship was a young supercargo, Ebenezer Townsend, son 
of the owner, who wrote of his anchorage in the Falklands thus : 

"States Harbor derives its name from a ship of that name which lay here two years 
to obtain sea-elephant oil and hair-seal skins. She was a very large ship, toward 1000 
tons, from Boston, fitted from there soon after the Revolutionary War, and the first 
ship that we know of that took any fur-seal skins. She was owned by Lady Haley, 
living in Boston. They took about 13,000 fur-seal skins as an experiment, which were 
sold in New York at about half a dollar each, their value not being known. They 
were afterwards taken to Calcutta, and sold there as sea-otters. From Calcutta, they 
were taken to Canton by Captain Metcalf of New York, who started from the United 
States about the same time that Captain Kendricks sailed from Boston. In Canton 
these skins were sold at about $5.00 each." 

Writers following Clark began stating that "Lady Haley, a Boston woman," fitted out 
the ship States for a sealing cruise to the Falklands in 1783 — "the first such cruise from 
America." Actually, the "Boston woman" was in reality Madame Hayley, of London, who 
came from London to this country with Francis Rotch. The States was a Rotch ship. After 
reaching Boston with Mrs. Hayley and Francis Rotch the ship went to Nantucket, and 
from there she sailed under Captain Benjamin Hussey to the Falklands late in 1784. The 
ship took whales and then skins of seals, known to be numerous at the Falklands. 

The first cargo of sealskins must have reached Nantucket early in 1786, for the cargo 
of thirteen thousand skins, sold at fifty cents each to New York — a $6,500 shipment — 
eventually was put on board the brig Eleanora, Captain Metcalf, and reached the Canton 
market, where they were sold for $65,000. One historian states "they were originally mis- 
taken for sea-otter skins." This is hardly creditable, as neither Captain Hussey nor Captain 
Metcalf can be accused of ignorance, especially in view of the Rotches' knowledge and 
the experience of the whalemen at the Falklands. The voyages of the States and Eleanora 
inaugurated the Canton fur trade for the sealers. 



2. Discovery of the South Shetlands 

The discovery of the South Shetland Islands 450 miles southwest of Cape Horn which 
opened the way for subsequent discovery and exploration of the Antarctic continent, may have 
been accomplished prior to 1819. This chain of volcanic islands trending in a north-northeast 
-south-southwest direction between 61° and 63° south latitude and 54° and 63° west 
longitude, are separated from the Palmer Peninsula of Antarctica by the sixty-mile-wide 
Bransfield Strait. These islands may have been seen as early as 1599 by Dirck Gherritz in 
the Dutch ship Blijde Bootschap (Glad Tidings) and possibly by the crews of sailing ships 
in the 17th and 18th centuries; but because no proof of such discoveries is extant, Captain 
William Smith in the brig William out of Blyth, England is most commonly credited with 
the discovery of the South Shetlands. 

In the translation of an article in Annates Maritime et Coloniales, 1821, Deuxieme 
Partie, page 1034 we find the following: 

"I have before me several reports proving that United States' vessels have been 
calling at southern New Shetland, which the British claim to have discovered last 
year, for the past ten years, or even longer, and that they take on cargo there similar 
to the cargo they obtain from the Crozet Islands (seal skins), using such cargo to 
maintain their trade with China." 

In Hugh R. Mill's The Siege of the South Pole, on page 92, we find a similar statement 
regarding early American visits to the South Shetlands : 

"According to a communication which was made by Captain J. Horsburgh, Hydro- 
grapher to the East India Company, to Professor Heinrich Berghaus, the distinguished 
author of the Physical Atlas; American Sealers had been at work in the South 
Shetlands since 1812, and had kept their field of operation a profound secret in order 
to exclude competition. . . ." 

Similar claims appeared in contemporary newspapers such as the Niles Weekly Register 
(Baltimore), which continued the claims in the following articles: 

"It is now well known that some of these hardy people (referring to Nantucket, 
Massachusetts seamen) had visited what is regarded by the English as newly dis- 
covered land, and now called New South Iceland, as early as 1800 — but the great 
profit which they made by catching seals, sea-elephants, sea-bears &c. caused them 
to keep their voyages a secret. In the year just stated, nine vessels arrived with 
151,000 fur-seal skins, giving it out that they had been obtained on the N.W. Coast." 
[November 23, 1822; page 180] 

"If there is any merit in the simple fact of accidental discovery, we have no doubt 
that it belongs to our 'Yankee' brethren; for 'Yankee Harbor' [harbor on west 
coast of Greenwich Island, South Shetland Islands] is quite a famous place, and 
long since we were told in the public newspapers that there was a spot where 'seals 
were as tame as kittens.' It cannot be doubted that the discovery [of the South Shet- 
lands] was made before October 1819 [the date that William Smith verified his dis- 
covery of February 1819], and we hope that some of our countrymen, now divested 
of the opportunity of keeping their discovery a secret for their own advantage, will 
tell us when they first knew of this land." [August 11, 1821; page 384] 
"By the favor of doctor Mitchell, we are enabled to lay before our readers the follow- 
ing very interesting letter from J. Robinson, esq. The magnitude of the discovery 
[of the South Shetlands] will not fail to arrest the attention of everyone, and the 
surprise is, that such an extent of ocean and so situated should not before have been 
known. It is said, however, to have been discovered some years since by some 
American whalers, and the knowledge concealed for mercantile purposes." [Sept. 
16, 1820; page 43. From the Ne<w York Columbian.'] 
"Americans at Sea" A notice of the skillful and adventurous spirit of our country- 




men on the ocean, under this head, a few days ago, has been copied into a multitude 
of papers, on account of its internal evidence of truth. Since then we gave an account, 
of the discovery of a new southern land, in a full belief that it would be found out 
that 'Jonathan,' as the Edinburg reviewers elegantly call the people of the United 
States, know of it long ago. Such seems to be the fact, as appears by the following 
article extracted from the N. York 'Mercantile Adviser,' one of our most respectable 

"The discovery — It is a singular fact that the newly discovered land in the Pacific 
Ocean, south of Cape Horn, has been known to brother Jonathan, at least so long that 
a voyage to and from the island has actually been completed out of the port of Ston- 
ington, Connecticut. But less ambitious about the honor than the profit, he was 
content, from the experience of the first voyage, to move on quietly in the purchase 
of ships, which he has done to the extent of seven or eight within a few months. 
About two years ago, a ship was fitted out of this port (New York) on shares, for 
'an island unknown to anyone except the captain, where seals which had never been 
disturbed by man, were as tame as kittens, and more plenty than any other place upon 
the earth.' This was the language used to induce others to take an interest, the pos- 
sessors of the secret being rich in knowledge and poor in purse. The ship, however, 
proceeded, but was unfortunately cast away before she reached her destination. 
"When our brethren of Stonington have made as much as they wish by keeping the 
secret, we hope they will favor the world with some account of their discovery." 
[September 30, 1820; page 65] 

All of these sources, the first one published in 1821 in France, the second one written 
by one of England's foremost Antarctic authorities, and the remainder in contemporary 
American newspapers, indicate that United States sealers, rather than William Smith, may 
have been the first to sight and possibly land on the islands of the South Shetland group. 
However, since no documentary evidence exists to prove these claims, the discovery must 
be credited to Smith, the Englishman. 



Registers and Crew Lists of the Sealing Vessels 

The crew list of the Huntress was lost when the Nantucket custom house records were 
carelessly destroyed (after being moved to Boston), but the log gives the names of Captain 
Burdick's two officers — William Coleman, first mate, a Mr. Smith, second mate, and an 
unidentified "boy." As the schooner Harmony, of Nantucket, during the same period 
carried a complement of sixteen men, it is believed the Huntress had a similar number. 

In contrast, the crew list of the Huron has been found. Captain Davis had as his first 
officer Samuel H. Goddard, of Connecticut; second mate Charles Philips, and third mate 
Oliver Ripley, also of Connecticut. Solomon Russell, the surgeon (or doctor), was a Con- 
necticut man ; as was William Johnson, the carpenter ; Samuel Wadsworth, the cooper, 
and Jason Bunce, the blacksmith. The boatswain, often mentioned in the log, was Charles 
Laing, address unknown, who was 21 years old and only 5 ft. 3^ inches tall. Of the nine- 
teen men listed as seamen, the oldest, Daniel French, was 41 ; next oldest, Hiram Norton, 
30 years old, and the youngest two "boys" aged 14 each — John W. Davis (probably a son 
of the Captain), and George Mack. The remainder averaged 21.1 years of age. Three of 
the seamen were 17, one 18, and one 16. The cook and steward were mulattoes, named 
William White and Cyrus Treadwell, respectively. Two others in the crew were colored 
men. In the total complement of 31 persons, one was listed as a "landsman," a nineteen-year- 
old man named Herbert Hinman. As an oddity, Jabez B. Fletcher, 5 and 1^ inches tall, 
deserted the Huron in the Falklands, and his place was filled by a Thomas Evans, probably 
from the General Knox. 

The shallop Cecilia was rigged as a schooner, probably in the Falkland Islands in the 
fall of 1820, being constructed of material brought "knocked down" aboard the Huron. 
After two seasons in the South Shetlands and Falklands, the Cecilia arrived at New Haven 
on June 29, 1822. Her name seems to have been changed to Young Huron for reasons not 
definitely known. 
1 — Ship Huron of New Haven 

Built at Guilford, Conn, in 1819 

Master: John Davis 

Length : 89 ft. 8 in. 

Breadth: 25 ft. 3 in. 

Depth: 12 ft. 7 in. 

Tonnage : 249 43/95 

Two Decks, three masts, square stern — a billet head 

Owners: Elias Shipman, John Shipman, Solomon Collis, Asa Bradley. 

Registry No. 10 issued Nov. 3, 1819 to Registry No. 13 

Surrendered to new registry March 20, 1820 when John Davis became master. 

Owners: Included Collis, Shipman, Bradley, Joseph N. Clarke, Russell Hotchkiss, Elias 
Hotchkiss, Andrew Kirsten, James Goodrich, William H. Jones, William Leffing- 
well, Sanford Denison, Stephen and Henry Huggins, Hervey Sanford and Lucius 
Atwater, Norman Dexter, William Forbes, Jehial Forbes, Timothy Bishop. 

Registry No. 8 issued Aug. 22, 1822, when Robert R. Macy took over as Master. 
2 — Schooner Huntress of Nantucket, Mass. 

Built at Barnstable, Mass. in 1817 as per enrollment at Nantucket, Dec. 5, 1818 

Tons: 80 3/95 

Length: 68 ft. 3 in. 

Breadth: 18 ft. 10 in. 


Portion of the Captain George Powell chart of the South Shetlands 
and the Antarctic Continent which zvas printed in England in 

November, 1822 

(From Edwin Balch's "Antarctica") 


Depth: 7 ft. 1 in. 

Two masts, one deck. Square stern, no figurehead. 

Owner: Samuel H. Macy, merchant of Nantucket with Stephen Arthur, George Macy, 
Christopher Burdick all of Nantucket. 

Master: Christopher Burdick, surrendered at Nantucket, June 28, 1821. 
3 — Schooner Express of Stonington, Conn. 

Length: 76 ft. 9 in. 

Breadth: 24 ft. 5 in. 

Depth : 8 ft. 8 in. 

Built at Hudson, N.Y., 1816. 

Master: Benjamin Pendleton. July 26, 1820. 

Owners: W. A. Fanning, merchant mariner, E. Williams, N. B. Palmer and B. Pendle- 
ton, mariners of Stonington, Elisha Faxon, Jedediah Randall, Peleg Denison, George 
Haley, Enoch Burrows of Stonington. 

Owner: Benjamin Pendleton, sole owner. May 28, 1821. 
4 — Ship Frederick of Stonington, Conn. Year, 1820. 

Permanent Register No. 4 

Issued at New London May 2, 1820. 

Date Surrendered: July 20, 1821. Transfer of property. 

Rig: Brig 

Master: Benjamin Pendleton of Stonington. 

Built at Guilford, Conn, in 1815 

Length: 67 ft. 8 in. 

Breadth: 22 ft. 4 in 

Depth : 1 1 ft. 4 in. 

Net Tonnage: 147 24/95 

Two decks, 2 masts, square stern, head, a billet. 

Official Number and Letters not stated. 

Document preceding Cert, of Registry No. 3 dated May 2, 1820. 

Issued at New London. 

Owners: Benjamin Pendleton, and Gurden Trimbull of Stonington, Conn, with Wm. 
A. Fanning, E. Faxon, E. Faxon, Jr., Samuel F. Denison, James Sheffield, Giles R. 
Hallam, John P. Williams, Nathan Smith, Enoch Burrows, Asa Lee, Eph. Williams, 
Simon Carew, Jonathan Pendleton, Benjamin S. Cutler, Zeb Hancox and Thomas 
Perry of Stonington and Stephen White and William Fedyplace of Salem, Mass. 
5 — Ship Clothier of Stonington, Conn. Year, 1820. 

Permanent Register No. 12. Issued at New London Aug. 2, 1820. 

Surrendered at New London, May 16, 1821. Reason, Vessel stranded and lost. 

Rig: Ship 

Master: Alexander B. Clark 

Home port: Stonington 

Built at Philadelphia, Pa. in 1810. 

Length: 94 ft. 

Breadth: 26 ft. 3/10 

Depth: Half the breadth 

Tonnage: 284 75/95 

Two decks, three masts, stern square, A woman. 

Official Number and Letters not stated. 



Document preceding Cert, of Registry No. 151 dated July 1, 1820 issued at New York. 

Owners: William Williams of Stonington, Thomas W. Williams of New London and 
Alfred Welles of Hartford, Conn, with Samuel F. Denison, Simeon Curew, Asa 
Lee, Daniel Packer, Isaac Champlain, David S. Hart, Gurden Trimbull, Henry Smith, 
Nathan Smith, Peleg Denison, George Haley, Jeremiah Holmes, Oliver Burdick, 
Cyrus Williams, William Williams, James Thos. Perry, Benjamin Pomeroy and 
Jedh. Perkins of said Contn., George Lister and Reuben Brimby of New York and 
William Fetly, Schuyler and White of Salem, Mass. 
6 — Schooner Freegift of Stonington, Conn. Year 1820. 

Permanent Register No. 5. Issued at New London on May 15, 1820, 

Surrendered at New London on July 10, 1821. Reason, Transfer of property. 

Rig: Schooner 

Master: Thomas Dunbar, Jr. 

Home port: Stonington 

Built at Pawcatuck, R.I. in 1807. 

Length : 50 ft. 7 in. 

Breadth: 16 ft. 9 in. 

Depth: 7 ft. 33^ in. 

Tonnage: 52 9/95 

One Deck, 2 Masts, stern square. Head — No. 

Official Number and Letters not stated. 

Document preceding Cert, of Enrollment dated May 6, 1818. Issued at New London. 

Owners: Elisha Faxon of Stonington and Thomas Dunbar, Jr. of Westerly, R. I. with 
Wm. A. Fanning, Benjamin Pendleton, Giles R. Hallam, Zebenton Hancox, Zeba 
D. Palmer, Thomas S. Breed, Azh Stanton, Jr., Luther Fuller, Isaac Williams 2nd 
of Stonington and Nathan Barber, Jr. of said Westerly. 
7 — Sloop Hero of Stonington, Conn. Year 1820. 

Master: Nathaniel B. Palmer 

Built: Groton, Conn., 1800. 

Length : 47 ft. 3 in. 

Beam: 16 ft. 10 in. 

Depth : 6 ft. 4 in. 

Tonnage : 44 40/95 

One deck, one mast, square stern, no figurehead. 

Owners: W. A. Fanning, Ephraim Williams, James B. Sheffield, N. B. Palmer, mariner 
Elisha Faxon, Jedediah Randale, Benjamin Pendleton, Silas Hallam, George Haley 
and Peleg Denison. 
8 — Emeline, brig built at Lyme, 1818. 

Length : 67 ft. long 4 in. 

Tonnage: 108 89/95 

Breadth: 21 ft. beam 4 in. 

Depth: 8 ft. 9-3/4 

One deck, 2 Masts, square stern, woman's bust figurehead. 

Owners: W. Williams and Samuel F. Denison, Jeremiah Holmes of Stonington, Thomas 
Williams of New London, Gurden Trembell of Stonington, Asa Lee, Henry Smith, 
Peleg Denison, Benjamin Pomeroy, George Haley, Simon Carew, Nathan Sanborn, 
William Williams, Jedediah Perkins of Norwich, Alfred Wales, George Aston, Reuben 
Bemely of New York State. 



The Falkland Islands 

Among the little-known places of the earth that have become important in the world 
of "news" are the Falkland Islands, a British crown colony lying in the South Atlantic 
off the South American coast about 300 miles east of the Straits of Magellan. The colony 
consists of a group of some 100 islands of which East Falkland and West Falkland are 
the two largest. The smaller islands are mainly rocks and reefs; the two main islands provide 
pasturage for cattle. 

East Falkland Island has two fine inlets, Berkeley Sound and Port William. Port Louis, 
formerly the seat of government, is at the head of Berkeley Sound. The little town of 
Stanley, now the government seat, is in Port William. Next to Stanley in size is the village 
of Darwin, a village of Scottish shepherds, and the main station of the Falkland Island 
Company, the principal traders of the islands. The majority of the inhabitants, some 2,000 
in number, are Scottish and their occupation is mostly given over to sheep raising, wool 
being the largest export. 

The history of the islands dates back to 1592, when their discovery was first reported. 
In 1594 Sir Richard Hawkins sighted the islands, and in 1598 Sebold de Wert, a Dutch 
sailor, named them the Sebold Islands and this name appears on Dutch maps. 

In 1690, Captain Strong visited the islands and named the passage through which he 
came "Falkland Sound." From this the group of islands took its name. De Bouganville, a 
Frenchman, took possession and established a colony at Port Louis in 1764, and two years 
later the islands were ceded to Spain. 

In 1767, Commodore Byron took possession of the islands on the point of prior discovery 
and formed a settlement at Port Egmont, on the small island of Saunders. They were driven 
out by the Spaniards, but in 1771 Spain yielded her rights to Great Britain by convention. 

In 1820, Buenos Aires disputed the British right, claiming that Great Britain had lost 
her right by not colonizing the islands. The dispute was settled in 1833 and since that time 
the Falkland Islands have been a regular British Colony. 



Captain Palmer's Sealing Voyages of 1820-21 and 1821-22 

Several pages could be written on the American and British controversy on the discovery 
of the Antarctic Peninsula, but this is not our purpose. As one outstanding American 
geographer, the late S. Whittemore Boggs of the U.S. State Department, wrote: 

". . . Palmer has assumed the most prominence among early American sealers in 
Antarctica mainly because first-hand evidence of his accomplishments has been pre- 
served and has been available to the student of the Antarctic for several years. How- 
ever, it is just as likely that any of the other sealers in the South Shetlands in the 
1820-21 season undertook similar, and possibly even more creditable, exploratory 
cruises than did Palmer in the Hero, but because their logbooks, diaries, and other 
first-hand accounts have been lost or destroyed, these other men must remain In the 

Without question, the name "Palmer's Land" was affixed to the Peninsula by the early 
geographers, led by Powell of England in 1822. 

Both Professor William Hobbs and Colonel Lawrence Martin have presented the case 
for Captain Palmer, basing their claims on the November 17, 1820, cruise of Palmer from 
President Harbor to Yankee Harbor and return. Colonel Martin advances the theory that 
the Hero went to Deception Island down its west coast and up around to the entrance of 
the harbor created by the breached crater of this volcanic island. Martin then believes that 
Palmer cleared Deception Island and steered south by one-half east and reached the coast 
of Trinity Island some forty miles away, discovered the eastern entrance to Orleans Channel, 
found this strait literally filled with ice and returned across Bransfield Strait to Livingston 

But to return to the first claims for the discovery of the Peninsula, Congressman J. N. 
Reynolds, in his historic report to the Secretary of the Navy in 1828, wrote: 

"On the northern part of Palmer Land, and in latitude 66° OS' S., and about 63° W. 
longitude, Captain Pendleton discovered a bay, clear of ice, . . . but did not ascertain 
its full extent south." 

Edmund Fanning, in his "Voyages Around the World," describes the sailing of this 
1820-21 fleet from Stonington, and wrote: "From Captain Pendleton's [the senior com- 
mander's] report as rendered on their return, it appeared that while the fleet lay at anchor 
in Yankee Harbor, Deception Island, during the season of 1820 and 21, being on the 
look-out from an elevated station, on the mountain of the island during a very clear day 
he had discovered mountains (one a volcano in operation) in the south; this was what 
is now known by the name of Palmer's Land. . . . To examine this newly discovered land. 
Captain N. B. Palmer, in the sloop Hero, . . . was despatched . . ." 

Captain Palmer's logbook is evidence enough of where he sailed, and the confusion be- 
tween the 1820-21 season in the South Shetlands and that of the following year is here 
most evident. It was not until the succeeding year (1821-22) that the Stonington fleet went 
to Deception Island and used it as its base. The sealers' logbooks show this conclusively and, 
further, upon the return of the fleet in 1822, the following report appeared in the April 24, 
1822, issue of the New London Gazette: 

"We have been favored with interesting particulars respecting a Southern Continent 
by Capt. Nathaniel B. Palmer of the sloop James Monroe, lately arrived at Stoning- 
ton from the South Shetlands. Capt. Palmer proceeded in the James Monroe from 



the Shetland Isles to the Continent and coasted it, from abreast the Isles to the East- 
ward, as far as 44 West Longitude. . . . There is now no doubt that there exists a 
South Continent and that Capt. Cook's Southern Thule belongs to it. Capt. Palmer 
could discover the mountains covered with snow in the interior, as he sailed along 
the coast." 

In this 1822 report, Captain Palmer verifies the sighting of the mainland by the American 
sealers of 1821. 

The British sealer Captain Powell met Palmer in the South Shetlands in December 1821, 
and the two cruised east to discover the South Orkneys. In his resultant map of the South 
Shetlands and vicinity, Captain Powell was the first to note and name the region now 
known as Palmer Land. The chart was published by Laurie in 1822. Captain Powell noted 
on this chart : 

"We are equally ignorant of the extent of Palmer's Land, both to the South, east 
and west, the latter having been seen at a great distance only." 

As for the assumption that Captain Palmer was in Deception Island harbor in November, 
1820, it must be mentioned that Fanning, Balch and Spears, three of the first proponents 
of the claim of discovery of Antarctica by Palmer, have all been mistaken in assuming this 
fact. Even Colonel Martin admits that the "situation has been inaccurately described in 
previous accounts" (by these three) "who thought Pendleton and the fleet were at De- 
ception Island when Antarctica was discovered." 

The contemporary evidence shows that it was not until the next season that the enter- 
prising Stonington fleet used Deception Island's fine harbor for its base. 

Captain John Davis himself has the first and best description of Deception's harbor. He 
wrote in the Huron's logbook, as of December 30, 1821, the following: 

". . . At 4 A.M. Entered the Dragons mouth and entered into the spacious Bay of 
Deception. At a Distance Deception has the appearance of a considerable large 
Island but when you enter this Bay the beholder is struck with astonishment for in 
the room of a large Island he finds nothing but a mere rim of an Island formed 
around the Bay which has been Sounded with one Hundred and twenty Fathom of 
line and no Bottom found. I have no doubt this Bay has been formed by an ancient 
Existed volcano and must have been one of the Largest known in the World as it 
has every appearance to establish the truth . . . many Places along the shore still 
Emits a continual smoak and the Water and sand in a number of Places inside this 
Bay is so hot that a Person cannot hold his hand in it for the space of two seconds. 
At the Head of this Bay are two Lagoons which forms most Excellent and com- 
modious Harbors in one of these I found the Stonington Squadron. . . ." 

Several other sources also mention the Stonington fleet as using Deception Harbor during 
the 1821-22 sealing season in the South Shetlands. The Huron's log further points out that 
the ice conditions were much worse than the previous season, so that, from various bits 
of evidence, the 1820-21 season was a remarkable one for its mildness. 

From further evidence (preserved at the British Museum) in the account of Captain 
Robert Fildes, an English sealer, the present writer believes that Captain McFarlane, in the 
sealing brig Dragon, of London, was the person for whose vessel the entrance to the harbor 
at Deception Island was named. Captain Fildes arrived at Blythe Bay, on the north coast 
of Livingston Island, on December 4, 1820, and found the Dragon had been at the South 
Shetlands for seven weeks, during which time Captain McFarlane had taken over 5,000 
seal-skins on this beach alone. Fildes listed 14 British sealing craft, one being the Lynx from 
Botany Bay, Australia, the vessel Captain Davis found at Smith Island. The British called 



the strait separating Livingston from Greenwich Island "McFarlane Strait," while the 
Americans called it "Yankee Strait." As Captain Davis in the Huron s log noted the en- 
trance to the harbor at Deception Island was called the "Dragon's Mouth." no doubt after 
McFarlane's vessel. This designation on the part of an American is significant, especially 
as Captain Davis, through his rescue of the British sealers cast away by wreck on King 
George's Island, had a good opportunity to exchange ideas with the English sealers after 
bringing the shipwrecked crews to New Plymouth harbor. 



What were the subsequent fates of the various men and ships taking part in this important 
year of discovery (1820-21) in the South Shetlands? Of Captain John Davis little is 
known. The Huron returned to New Haven in 1822, after a second season under Captain 
Davis at the South Shetlands. She was then sold and her new master was Captain Robert 
Macy of Nantucket. Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer made a third voyage to the Antarctic 
(1821-22) in the sloop James Monroe, during which time he joined with the British sealer 
Captain George Powell to discover the South Orkneys as well as skirting the Antarctic 
Peninsula. His subsequent career as a clipper-ship skipper and owner reveal him as a most 
enterprising man. The Hero was sold at Coquimbo, South America, in 1822, following that 
second sealing season at the Shetlands. 

The Hersilia, under Captain James Sheffield, did not return to Stonington with her com- 
panions following the 1820-21 season, but sailed for the west coast of South America, where 
she was captured by the Spanish pirate Benevedes. Sheffield and most of his officers and crew 
were forced to sail the pirates from Auroco and return to that port, where the Hersilia 
dragged her anchors one night and drove ashore. Captain Sheffield and eleven of his own 
crew pretended to assist in salvaging the brig but instead escaped in two whaleboats under 
cover of darkness. They made their way up the coast for twenty days and spent five nights 
in the open sea to avoid recapture, finally reaching Valparaiso, where Sir Thomas Hardy, 
commander of the British squadron there who heard of their story, welcomed them aboard 
the Conway, Captain Hall. This was a strange turn of fate as a decade before Sir Thomas 
commanded a British fleet which bombarded Stonington, Captain Sheffield's home port. 

Hardy offered to send the Conway to Auroco as Commodore Ridgely of the U. S. Con- 
stellation was occupied by other troubles. But when the Conway reached the pirate strong- 
hold the Hersilia was found burned together with the ship Ocean. The pirate Benevedes 
had also murdered Captain Russell of the Nantucket whaleship Hero and the cabin boy, 
as well as Captain Clark of the Perseverance. 

Captain Sheffield and mate Daniel Clark returned home in the Nantucket whaler fVash- 
ington with eight of her crew members on board. Two members, B. Edward Stanton and 
David Kellogg came home in the Constellation. Those of the crew who were captured by 
the pirates were forced to march with them as volunteers. Daniel P. Stanton got away after 
eleven days of such service; Benjamin Rogers also escaped overland to Valparaiso, and 
Nathaniel Richards similarly got clear, afterward shipping on a Rhode Island brig. 

Captain Sheffield died a few years later, a comparatively young man, and unfortunately 
little record of his voyages remain. As the master of the Hersilia, the first American sealing 
vessel into the South Shetland area, he deserved wider recognition by his contemporaries 
and has earned a place in our maritime history, especially in his home port of Stonington. 

Captain Robert Johnson in the Jane Maria returned to New York from the South Shet- 
lands on May 12, 1821, with a cargo of skins for James Byers. He returned to the Shetlands 
during the next season (1821-22), and came back to New York in April, 1822, accom- 
panied by the Wasp, under Captain Benjamin Morrell. On the next voyage to the South 
Seas, Captain Johnson took out the Henry, and Morrell was his consort in the PFasp. This 
time (1822-1824) they sailed to the remote Auckland Islands, south of Tasmania and New 
Zealand. The fVasp was sold at Valparaiso by Morrell in 1824. Captain Johnson then 
(June 1824) sailed again for the Aucklands. The last ever heard of Captain Robert Johnson 
and the schooner Henry was that they were headed due south from the Antipodes Islands, 
on an exploration cruise for new sealing islands. On this voyage he disappeared. Thus perished 
an intrepid mariner and courageous commander. 



It is not at all strange that these staunch sealing craft came to untimely ends. The very 
nature of their calling made every voyage extremely hazardous. The Huntress, however, was 
sold by Captain Burdick upon his return to Nantucket and became a packet between that 
Island port and Boston and the Maine coast. The schooner met her fate on Cape Cod during 
a blizzard in December, 1825, all hands perishing. When discovered on the beach a day 
after the storm, the helmsman was found frozen to death at the wheel, and only three bodies 
were recovered from the wreck. Thus, after going through the dangers of uncharted Ant- 
arctic seas, the Huntress met an untimely fate only four years after her return from the 
South Shetlands. 

Captain Christopher Burdick lived less than ten years following his voyage in the Huntress. 
He entered the coasting trade in 1822, and was quite successful. That he had a brig named 
after him is some indication of his ability as a mariner, and of the esteem in which he was 
held by his contemporaries. On a voyage to Tampico, Mexico, in 1831, he contracted yellow 
fever and died at that port. His body was brought home in a barrel of pickle and was interred 
at the Prospect Hill Cemetery, Nantucket. He left a widow and three children. 

As for the Englishman, Captain William Smith, the discoverer of the South Shetlands, 
his last days in England were clouded by the refusal of the Admiralty to pay him any re- 
muneration for the use of his brig Williams during the Bransfield exploration in 1819-20, 
beyond the regular charter price. Smith ended his days in a British charity home or almshouse. 

Captain George Powell, the British sealer, during the season of 1820-21 was at the 
South Shetlands first in the cutter Eliza and (in the 1821-22 season) in the Dove. It was 
during his second season in the South Shetlands, 1821—22, that he discovered the South 
Orkneys with Captain Nathaniel B. Palmer of Stonington, then in the James Monroe. 
Powell's cruisings in the Shetlands were along the northern shores of the islands, and his 
famous map was a combination of his own observations and descriptions given him by his 
contemporaries who had sailed south of the Shetland chain. His chart was published in 
November, 1822, by Laurie of London. On it is shown that portion of the Antarctic Penin- 
sula to which Powell affixed the name Palmer Land, obviously from the fact the informa- 
tion obtained came from his fellow sealer and explorer. Captain Palmer. It is this chart 
which states, in part: "We are equally ignorant of the extent of Palmer's Land, both to 
the South, east and west, the latter having been seen at a great distance only." Another edition 
of this chart, published in 1828, had the Hughes Bay area added. One has only to compare 
the outline of Livingston Island's southern coast with that portion as shown on Weddell's 
chart to see that the latter had been there while Powell probably had not. Captain Powell 
might have been, like Captain Robert Johnson, a notable explorer but for his early death at 
the hands of South Sea natives only two years after this last voyage to the South Shetlands. 

The British sealer Captain James Weddell was the first sealing master to proceed directly 
from London to the South Shetlands, according to the late Arthur R. Hinks. His book, already 
cited, published in 1825, tells of work there for three seasons 1820-21, 1821-22, and 1822-23, 
but has more information on the later voyage when he penetrated to 74° south latitude 
to the east of the Antarctic Peninsula to what is now called the Weddell Sea. It should 
be noted that in drafting his chart of the South Shetlands, Weddell was aided by Captain 
Charles Barnard, the American master of the brig Charity, who wrote: "This gentleman 
Weddell was my particular friend, and meeting with him in the Falklands, I furnished him 
with some sketches for his chart of the South Shetland Islands, and several other places 
which he has not mentioned in his narrative." This statement may be found in Barnard's 
book, "A Narrative of Suffering and Adventures," cited in the Notes.